Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

David Carpenter


Robert Pirsig, in both his novels Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Lila, explores the conflict one man has with the beliefs and values of the culture he is living in. This conflict leads him to mental collapse and eventually a kind of rebirth into a new outlook and way of viewing the cultural values and beliefs of the society he is living in. In this thesis, I propose that Phaedrus, the central character of both of Pirsig's novels, can be compared to a shaman. I am not suggesting that Pirsig deliberately intended the reader to view the character as a shaman figure. I am simply proposing an archetypal pattern in which to view him. I will show strong similarities between the initiation shamans must go thorugh and the ordeals that Phaedrus is told to have experienced in the first novel. I will then illustrate how Lila, Pirsig's second novel, can be seen as Phaedrus' attempt at the practical application of his shamanistic vision to the world at large.