Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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The Glass Door Symbol Analysis

The Glass Door Symbol Icon
The glass door is the dominant image in a recurring nightmare the narrator experiences. In this dream, the narrator is separated from Chris and the rest of his family by a glass door. While his family urges him to open the door, the narrator refuses. This dream is likely based on an episode that transpired during Phaedrus’s hospitalization. The narrator’s failure to open the glass door and reunite with his family literalizes the barrier that his split identities have erected between him and his kin.

The Glass Door Quotes in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Glass Door. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Quality Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the HarperTorch edition of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance published in 1974.
Chapter 24 Quotes

There has been a haze, a backup problem in this Chautauqua so far; I talked about caring the first day and then realized I couldn’t say anything meaningful about caring until its inverse side, Quality, is understood. I think it’s important now to tie care to Quality by pointing out that care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who’s bound to have some characteristics of Quality.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: Motorcycle Maintenance, The Glass Door
Page Number: 353
Explanation and Analysis:

The narrator has woken up from a Glass Door nightmare. The nightmare shows an incident at the hospital, where Phaedrus sees his family on the other side of a glass door and is unable to open it. Note that the nightmare chapter is written in a different font, since it is from Phaedrus's perspective. After waking, the narrator and Chris get back on the motorcycle, and the narrator continues with the Chautauqua.

He explains that there has been a "haze, a backup problem" so far. He began with the issue at hand, the technological hopelessness of people like John, but in order to get to Quality, he had to back up and explain "classical" and "romantic" and give the history of Phaedrus' breakdown. Now, finally turning back to his original point, the narrator shows how Quality is linked to caring. He says that the two ideas are "internal and external aspects of the same thing." In other words, someone who cares a lot about their work produces Quality, and someone who produces something with Quality is someone who cares. Motorcycle maintenance, then, is the real-life application of Phaedrus' ideas, and the narrator has thus been talking about Quality in a way even before it was formally introduced.

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The Glass Door Symbol Timeline in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Glass Door appears in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 19
Identity Theme Icon
During the night, the narrator dreams that a glass door separates him from his wife and two sons. In this recurring dream, Chris asks him... (full context)
Chapter 23
Identity Theme Icon
Duality Theme Icon
The narrator’s recurring nightmare is described in detail. A glass door separates him from his wife and sons. The narrator realizes that his wife is grieving... (full context)
Chapter 26
Quality Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
Duality Theme Icon
Zen Theme Icon
...ultimately concludes that he doesn’t understand it. He reflects again on his dream of a glass door separating him from his son, and wonders about its significance. (full context)
Chapter 27
Identity Theme Icon
Duality Theme Icon
This chapter describes in greater detail the narrator’s recurring nightmare involving the glass door . The narrator addresses the “figure in the shadows” that stands between the narrator and... (full context)
Chapter 31
Identity Theme Icon
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
Duality Theme Icon
Chris asks the narrator why he refused to open the glass door between himself and his family at the hospital, and the narrator realizes that he may... (full context)