Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After two days of hanging around Bozeman, John and Sylvia head home. The next day, the narrator and Chris revisit the college where Phaedrus taught. When the father and son enter the building, Chris gets deeply uncomfortable and runs away. The narrator explores the building alone, and comes across Phaedrus’s old classroom, where the ghost’s presence is palpable.
The university is a highly charged place for the narrator, and Chris’s panicked exit suggests that the memories the campus triggers for the narrator may not be benign.
Themes
Identity Theme Icon
Duality Theme Icon
A woman comes upon the narrator in the classroom, and recognizes him as Phaedrus. She may have been one of his students. She treats the narrator extremely reverently and is shocked to hear that he no longer teaches. The interaction is uncomfortable, and the woman quickly leaves.
This interaction, like that between the narrator and DeWeese, highlights the change in personality that has taken place since Phaedrus’s electroshock therapy and the division it has rent in the narrator’s personality.
Themes
Identity Theme Icon
Duality Theme Icon
On his way out of the classroom, the narrator comes across Phaedrus’s old office, and is overcome with memories of his philosophical breakthroughs. He also recalls a woman named Sarah coming by Phaedrus’s office to ask if he has begun teaching Quality to his students. Sarah’s remarks about Quality unsettled Phaedrus’s notions about teaching writing. His approach strikes him as too prescriptive, and because he is unable to determine what exactly Quality is, he asks his students to write an essay on what the concept means to them.
This is a watershed moment in Phaedrus’s intellectual development: the question of Quality will come to be the defining issue of Phaedrus’s philosophical explorations.
Themes
Quality Theme Icon
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
The essay assignment vexes the students, and Phaedrus believes they must be having the same definitional troubles as he. He wonders how people can recognize what Quality is by evaluating things as good and bad, yet be unable to say what it is in explicit terms.
Because the concept of Quality eludes his and his students’ attempts at rational analysis, Phaedrus is spurred to investigate it further.
Themes
Quality Theme Icon
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
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