The narrator and his companions arrive in a small town, where it is 102 degrees. The group continues to travel and the narrator recognizes that he should not mentally fight against his discussion of Phaedrus.
The narrator’s willingness to discuss Phaedrus in detail is the first step towards reconciling himself with the man who has so influenced and affected him.
Phaedrus’s “knife,” the narrator explains, is the tool that every human uses to discern his or her environment and classify his or her observations. Phaedrus was interested in the infinitude of awareness from which we first separate out our understanding of the world. To learn about the entire landscape of awareness, one must understand the role played by the individual who seeks to study that awareness.
The discussion of classic and romantic understanding is necessary to introduce Phaedrus, because the man must be described obliquely. Phaedrus was in pursuit of the “ghost” of inscrutable rationality that undergirded all of western thought.
Phaedrus relies upon the rational distinction between classic and analytic viewpoints as a point of departure for his rational analysis of reason itself.
John and Sylvia want to travel fast, but the narrator suggests moving slowly. They quickly outpace him on the highway, but he takes his time and continues his contemplation.
The narrator has cultivated a sense of presence and a comfort in his surroundings that more hurried individuals have yet to grasp.
The narrator describes some of Phaedrus’s biographical background. He was an expert at manipulating the world analytically and logically, so much so that he had an I.Q. of 170, an extraordinarily high score. He was an isolated man who remained unknowable even to his wife and family. The narrator recalls a “fragment,” in which Phaedrus encounters a timber wolf in the woods. The man makes eye contact with the animal, and is struck with the realization that he has seen a vision of himself. The narrator thinks of the wolf as a timeless expression of Phaedrus’s being.
Phaedrus’s biography corresponds to the real-life biography of the book’s author, Robert Pirsig.
Phaedrus studied the ghost of reason because he saw it as a way to study his own identity. If he could destroy reason, he could liberate himself.
Phaedrus’s pursuit of reason indicates a fundamental drive to understand his identity.
The narrator says that the time has come to explain his own relation to Phaedrus. At a party several years ago, the narrator felt overwhelmed by carousing and went to lie down. When he awoke, he found himself in a hospital. He figures out that his recollections prior to waking up were dreams, and he is told that he now has developed a new personality. The narrator comes to understand that Phaedrus was destroyed by a court-ordered treatment of electroshock therapy. The narrator’s body was once Phaedrus’s, but after the treatment, the narrator came to inhabit that body. The narrator has never met Phaedrus, but is terrified that he can never run from him, since his body once belonged to Phaedrus.
At long last, the reader is finally informed of Phaedrus’s true nature. The narrator’s initial unwillingness to acknowledge Phaedrus’s role as his past self points to a deeply conflicted sense of identity which you might be able to describe almost as a duality.
At a stop, John and Sylvia express their anger at the narrator for moving so slowly. As they continue riding, however, a light shower begins. The rain ceases and the group reaches the top of a hill, feeling restored and admiring the land before them.
The rain and the beauty of the land dissipates the animosity caused by the group’s different approaches to life and travel, and they are left feeling renewed.