Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


Robert Pirsig

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

The narrator remarks that every Chautauqua requires a list of valuable things that can be consulted later. For this reason, he provides a long, categorized enumeration of the materials and provisions necessary for a long motorcycle trip. Surprisingly, this list includes three books: the narrator carries the motorcycle’s manual, a general guide to maintenance, and a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.
The narrator’s enumeration of items showcases the rational order that typifies the “classic” approach to life.
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The narrator wakes Chris and the Sutherlands up early, and they embark on a bracingly cold ride. When they stop for breakfast, John and Sylvia are upset at the narrator, and they insist on waiting for it to warm up before they continue. The narrator muses that their intolerance of physical discomfort is incompatible with an aversion to technology.
Because of their exclusively “romantic” outlook, John and Sylvia are unable to resolve fundamental disharmonies between their romantic impulses and their more classical needs.
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At a stop to admire the scenery, Chris complains, asking to leave and camp out. The group decides to camp out that night.
Chris’s bratty behavior plays a well-defined role later in the text, when the narrator must introspect to find its cause.
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