Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Chris Pirsig Character Analysis

Chris is the oldest son of the narrator/Phaedrus. He is eleven years old when he accompanies the narrator on the transcontinental motorcycle trip that forms the bulk of the storyline. Chris frequently complains of psychosomatic stomachaches, and the narrator fears that his son may inherit his mental illness. The narrator’s fractured relationship with Chris is a primary impetus in the narrator’s quest to reconcile his identity with Phaedrus’s. The novel’s afterword reveals that Chris was murdered by muggers just before his 23rd birthday.

Chris Pirsig Quotes in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance quotes below are all either spoken by Chris Pirsig or refer to Chris Pirsig. 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:
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). 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 31 Quotes

I can imitate the father he’s supposed to have, but subconsciously, at the Quality level, he sees through it and knows his real father isn’t here. In all this Chautauqua talk there’s been more than a touch of hypocrisy. Advice is given again and again to eliminate subject-object duality, when the biggest duality of all, the duality between me and him, remains unfaced. A mind divided against itself.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Phaedrus, Chris Pirsig
Page Number: 517
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chris Pirsig Character Timeline in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The timeline below shows where the character Chris Pirsig appears in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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The narrator rides a motorcycle through the American Central Plains with his eleven-year-old son Chris. It is a muggy July morning. The narrator points out a blackbird to Chris, but... (full context)
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Chris and the narrator are on a trip from Minneapolis to Montana with the narrator’s friends,... (full context)
Chapter 2
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...inclement weather on the horizon and remembers a rain-soaked trip to Canada he took with Chris several years before. That trip ended early because the cycle broke down and the narrator... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...an uncanny knowledge of where to find the best motel in town. At the motel, Chris asks to hear ghost stories. Initially, the narrator debunks ghosts as irrational fantasy. Chris then... (full context)
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...aback by the ideas the narrator expounds, and the conversation winds down. Later, in bed, Chris asks to hear another ghost story. The narrator tells him about a man named Phaedrus,... (full context)
Chapter 4
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The narrator wakes Chris and the Sutherlands up early, and they embark on a bracingly cold ride. When they... (full context)
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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. (full context)
Chapter 5
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While setting up camp, Chris acts out and subtly disobeys his father. Chris complains excessively and unreasonably, rankling John and... (full context)
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The narrator reveals to John and Sylvia that Chris suffers frequent stomachaches that rarely have any physiological basis. These pains were diagnosed as precursors... (full context)
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Chris returns to the tent and gets ready for bed with his father, whining interminably. He... (full context)
Chapter 6
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The group awakes on a scorching hot day, demoralized by a mosquito-ridden night. Chris complains at breakfast of another stomachache. The narrator decides to devote that day’s Chautauqua to... (full context)
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The group stops for gas and coffee, and the narrator explains to Chris that he must eat with the rest of the group or not at all. Back... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...efficiently even though his shop is disorganized. He meets back up with John, Sylvia, and Chris for dinner. The narrator explains that right-wing politics dominate the state, and that the college... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...goes to bed, after getting instructed by DeWeese on where best to go camping with Chris later in the trip. (full context)
Chapter 15
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 16
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The narrator and Chris begin their hike into the mountains. He compares their trek through the mountains to Phaedrus’s... (full context)
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On the hike, Chris acts stubbornly and refuses to do a task he’s asked to do. The narrator continues... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Chris becomes visibly demoralized as the hike continues. The narrator recognizes that his son fears he... (full context)
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Chris struggles with the climb. The narrator guesses that his son is treating the ascent like... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Chris falls down, angry about the hike. The narrator does not condemn his son’s bratty behavior,... (full context)
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Chris pretends to have hurt his ankle. The narrator carries Chris’s share of the equipment and... (full context)
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...means that the concept cannot be viewed from an analytical, classic standpoint. As he and Chris hike on, Chris’s spirits seem to have improved. The pair then sets up camp for... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...a glass door separates him from his wife and two sons. In this recurring dream, Chris asks him to open the door but the narrator declines. The narrator understands it as... (full context)
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Just as Phaedrus’s breakthrough is recounted by the narrator, he and Chris break out of the tree line. Chris sprints to the summit and gloatingly declares himself... (full context)
Chapter 20
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The narrator and Chris take a nap on the summit. When he wakes, the narrator hears some rockslides and... (full context)
Chapter 21
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As he and Chris descend the mountain, the narrator muses that he cannot evaluate how truthful it is that... (full context)
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Chris and the narrator complete their descent and arrive in Bozeman at night. Exhausted, they check... (full context)
Chapter 22
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The following morning, the narrator and Chris say farewell to the DeWeeses and leave Bozeman. The narrator begins a new Chautauqua about... (full context)
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The narrator and Chris head through Missoula and continue westward. They pause to camp by the side of the... (full context)
Chapter 24
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The narrator awakes from his nightmare, feeling disoriented and worried. He and Chris get back on the motorcycle, and the narrator begins a Chautauqua that equates an awareness... (full context)
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The travelers get breakfast and the narrator helps Chris write a letter to his mother. Back on the road, the narrator continues his Chautauqua,... (full context)
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The narrator and Chris have made good time on the motorcycle. They pass through Grangeville, Idaho and begin to... (full context)
Chapter 25
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The narrator and Chris camp out for the night and prepare to head into Oregon the next day. The... (full context)
Chapter 26
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The narrator and his son stop for lunch. The narrator reflects that his relationship with Chris is stuck in a value trap—the facts he wants to discover about his son are... (full context)
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The narrator and Chris rest in a small, relaxed town. As they resume travel through the desert, the narrator... (full context)
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...impersonal, egotistical way of life. At long last, after 325 miles of travel that day, Chris and the narrator call it a night and set up camp near Bend, Oregon. (full context)
Chapter 27
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...stands between the narrator and the glass door, on the other side of which stands Chris. The narrator becomes less afraid of the shadowy figure and realizes that it is cowering... (full context)
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Chris, alarmed, wakes the narrator, and tells him he had been yelling in his sleep about... (full context)
Chapter 28
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The chapter opens with a flashback: Phaedrus and a six-year-old Chris drive in a car through a desolate cityscape. Neither of them knows where they are,... (full context)
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Chris asks the narrator what the purpose of their traveling is. The narrator tells his son... (full context)
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The narrator and Chris arrive at Crater Lake and the narrator is perturbed by how disingenuously pristine the area... (full context)
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The narrator and Chris reach a town called Grant’s Pass, where they stay in a motel. On the way... (full context)
Chapter 29
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In town, the narrator and Chris take care of errands. The narrator finds a welder to take care of the chain... (full context)
Chapter 30
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The narrator and Chris pull off the freeway and drive aimlessly until they find a motel for the night.... (full context)
Chapter 31
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The next morning, Chris is aloof, and he and the narrator ride south along the coast. They stop to... (full context)
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The narrator observes that Chris’s inquisitive, combative nature reminds him of Phaedrus. The two stop at a diner, and Chris... (full context)
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Chris asks the narrator why he refused to open the glass door between himself and his... (full context)
Chapter 32
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As the two ride along the coast, Chris continues to repeat “I knew it.” The narrator realizes how his split identity has harmed... (full context)
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...helmets off and the narrator notices that they no longer have to yell to communicate. Chris stands up on the foot pegs and marvels at the view that he can see,... (full context)
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The narrator tells Chris that he should have no problem approaching his motorcycle with the right attitude. The two... (full context)
Afterword
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Chris has been murdered in a botched robbery, just weeks before his 23rd birthday. He was... (full context)
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...thinks of Nell as a way of repairing the hole rent in the pattern by Chris’s murder. (full context)