At the University of Chicago, Phaedrus’s Professor of Philosophy is out sick for many consecutive weeks. In the interim, Phaedrus studies Plato’s text, Phaedrus. His health and sanity are faltering, as his obligations force him to work and study for 20 hours a day.
At this point, Phaedrus’s philosophy has almost completely consumed him.
After several weeks, Phaedrus’s class meets again, this time taught by the Chairman of the Committee. Phaedrus understands that this is the time when his ideas will be torn apart in public. The Chairman explains the dialogue, and Phaedrus raises his hand to offer the competing assertion that some of Socrates’s observations are actually analogies. Phaedrus quotes from the text to back up this thesis, and the Chairman is forced to back down. Following this exchange, the Chairman becomes visibly unnerved before the class. He tries to trap Phaedrus with another question, but Phaedrus gives a response taken verbatim from one of the Chairman’s articles.
Phaedrus uses rhetoric to respond to the Chairman’s Aristotelian logic. The success of this approach demonstrates rhetoric’s power.
In the next class, Phaedrus tries to defer to the Chairman, but the Chairman snaps at him nastily. After this class, Phaedrus stops attending. His lectures at Navy Pier grow more and more frenzied, and his grip on reality dwindles. He stops sleeping. He loses track of time and wanders the city aimlessly. He passes out on a sidewalk and returns home, where he sits catatonically. He tells his wife to leave him, burns his hands with cigarettes, and urinates on the floor. His wife tries to find help. Phaedrus feels that Quality has finally made itself clear to him.
Phaedrus’s understanding of Quality has removed him completely from the “mythos” of his time. This makes him behave in a manner that appears insane.
The narrator and Chris pull off the freeway and drive aimlessly until they find a motel for the night. In their motel room, Chris asks the narrator when he will get to go home, and complains about the journey. He begins to wail and rock on the floor in a way that reminds the narrator of the mental hospital. Chris then says that the narrator used to be “fun,” but now is just silent.
The narrator’s change in persona has clearly damaged the continuity of his relationship with Chris. In order to preserve Chris’s sanity, the narrator will have to come to grips with his divided identity.