Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The party arrives in Bozeman, and the narrator’s surroundings feel familiar, but slightly alien. The group meets DeWeese at the idyllic home he shares with his wife, Gennie. The travelers have a conversation with the DeWeeses and some other visitors. The narrator largely tunes out from the conversation, but notices that there is some friction between DeWeese and John because of their differing conceptions of the narrator’s identity.
Not only does the narrator’s divided identity discomfit him upon his return to Bozeman, it also puts stress on the relationships of the people around him, who have different conceptions of who he is.
Themes
Identity Theme Icon
Duality Theme Icon
The travelers and the DeWeeses dine together, and more guests arrive after dinner. During conversation, DeWeese brings out a set of instructions for assembling a barbecue and says he’s been having trouble following them. This launches the narrator into a discussion of a set of instructions from a Japanese bike manual, which required “peace of mind” for proper bicycle assembly. Peace of mind, the narrator explains to his companions, is required for this mechanical work because proper assembly depends on assembling a machine that satisfies the one who assembles it. He explains that the work of a true craftsman is independent from codified instructions, and really lies much closer to art. The narrator even goes so far as to liken rotisserie barbecue assembly to a kind of sculpture.
The narrator’s extended philosophizing at the dinner party illustrates that he is still captivated by the same thoughts that fascinated Phaedrus. The “peace of mind” philosophy that the narrator espouses offers a means of bridging the gap between technical and artistic approaches to construction, and thus achieving a better product.
Themes
Zen Theme Icon
The narrator’s lengthy speech leaves the dinner party dumbfounded. After the rest of the guests leave, the narrator stays up with Robert and Gennie DeWeese, who ask him to explain his theses in more detail. He tells them that his pontifications about technology and art stem from the disconnect between reason and emotion that has become pronounced in the present day. He explains that rationality must be expanded in order to offer a solution to the discontentment that Americans feel towards their own culture. Classical reason cannot explain new feelings, and reason is ripe for a frameshift not unlike the one that occurred when Columbus reached the New World.
The narrator’s explanation of the rotisserie assembly manual grounds Phaedrus’s philosophy in a real-life procedure. Once again, Phaedrus’s philosophy is presented as the expansion of reason that contemporary Americans need in order to reconcile their discordant and unfulfilling perspectives on reason and feeling.
Themes
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
Duality Theme Icon
Zen Theme Icon
The narrator continues, telling the story of the Ancient Greek figure named Phaedrus. The Phaedrus of ancient times was a rhetorician who is immortalized as an interlocutor in one of Plato’s Socratic dialogues. Phaedrus was present for the invention of reason, the narrator explains, and when reason is excavated, his ghost reappears. The DeWeeses listen earnestly and recommend that the narrator try and write his thoughts down as some sort of treatise. At two in the morning, the narrator goes to bed, after getting instructed by DeWeese on where best to go camping with Chris later in the trip.
This passage offers the first explanation of why the narrator refers to his past self as Phaedrus. The historical significance of Phaedrus the Ancient Greek implies that Phaedrus’s 20th-century ideologies may similarly rebel against the classical Greek philosophers who shaped western intellectual tradition.
Themes
Identity Theme Icon
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
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