Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

John Sutherland Character Analysis

John is a friend of the narrator’s from Minneapolis. With his wife, Sylvia, John accompanies the narrator and Chris to Bozeman, Montana. John rides a BMW motorcycle that he has no interest in maintaining, and the narrator uses John’s emotion-based “romantic” perspective to contrast with the narrator’s own “classic” perspective.

John Sutherland Quotes in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance quotes below are all either spoken by John Sutherland or refer to John Sutherland. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperTorch edition of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance published in 1974.
Chapter 5 Quotes

What we have here is a conflict of visions of reality. The world as you see it right here, right now, is reality, regardless of what the scientists say it might be. That’s the way John sees it. But the world as revealed by its scientific discoveries is also reality, regardless of how it may appear, and people in John’s dimension are going to have to do more than just ignore it if they want to hang on to their vision of reality. …
What you’ve got here, really, are two realities, one of immediate artistic appearance and one of underlying scientific explanation, and they don’t match and they don’t fit and they don’t really have much of anything to do with one another. That’s quite a situation. You might say there’s a little problem here.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), John Sutherland
Related Symbols: Motorcycle Maintenance
Page Number: 68-69
Explanation and Analysis:

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John Sutherland Character Timeline in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The timeline below shows where the character John Sutherland 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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...and the narrator are on a trip from Minneapolis to Montana with the narrator’s friends, John Sutherland and his wife Sylvia, who ride a motorcycle ahead of them. They have no... (full context)
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...The four resume travel, and the narrator begins to discuss a “disharmony” he observes in John and Sylvia’s marriage. Despite the narrator’s urgings, John is opposed to learning how to repair... (full context)
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The narrator also recollects a time he visited the Sutherlands’ house and found they had a leaky faucet. John had made only a perfunctory attempt... (full context)
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The narrator realizes from these anecdotes that John and Sylvia are distressed by technology—or humankind’s mechanistic tendencies in general. They, like other “beatniks”... (full context)
Chapter 2
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John points out that the group has missed a turn but they decide to continue anyway.... (full context)
Chapter 3
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John and Sylvia are taken aback by the ideas the narrator expounds, and the conversation winds... (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 stop for breakfast,... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...prairie, the narrator thinks more about the difference between his approach to motorcycle maintenance and John’s. He recalls one instance where John refused the narrator’s easy fix for his shaky handlebars... (full context)
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The narrator realizes that he and John regard motorcycles—and reality in general—in a completely different manner. John subscribes to a reality of... (full context)
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...camp, Chris acts out and subtly disobeys his father. Chris complains excessively and unreasonably, rankling John and Sylvia as well as his father. The boy refuses his dinner and walks away... (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... (full context)
Chapter 7
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John and Sylvia want to travel fast, but the narrator suggests moving slowly. They quickly outpace... (full context)
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At a stop, John and Sylvia express their anger at the narrator for moving so slowly. As they continue... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...mechanic works very 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... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...Chautauqua orations from the work a novelist might do, saying that he prefers to consider John and Sylvia as friends and not characters. However, he acknowledges that his philosophical musings necessarily... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...tunes out from the conversation, but notices that there is some friction between DeWeese and John because of their differing conceptions of the narrator’s identity. (full context)
Chapter 15
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After two days of hanging around Bozeman, John and Sylvia head home. The next day, the narrator and Chris revisit the college where... (full context)