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The Phantom Tollbooth
Transcript of The Phantom Tollbooth
Norton Juster Characters Milo: A small boy, he begins with no
sense of curiosity about the world
around him. As he undertakes his
journey through the Kingdom of
Wisdom, he learns the value of concepts
he never before considered. Milo learns
to observe the world around him and to
understand the purpose of everything. Tock: Milo meets Tock the watchdog
nearly immediately after he enters the
Kingdom of Wisdom. Tock exists to
force people to value time. He helps
Milo on his quest, eventually being the
force capable of saving the day. The Humbug: This funny little bug
represents the worst in all of us. He
constantly inflates his own value and
generally sees the half empty glass.
King Azaz the Unabridged
The Mathemagician: Once the
princes of Wisdom, these two stubborn
and snobbish old men consider their
particular areas of expertise superior to
all else. Their constant bickering and
their banishment of the Princesses
Rhyme and Reason left the Kingdom of
Wisdom in a sorry state.
"In this box are all the words I know. Most of them you will never need, some you will use constantly, but with them you may ask all the questions which have never been answered and answer all the questions which have never been asked. All the great books of the past and all the ones yet to come are made with these words. With them there is no obstacle you cannot overcome. All you must learn to do is use them well and in the right places." --King Azaz, p 98 Sweet Rhyme and Pure Reason:
These princesses hold together the
Kingdom of Wisdom with their ability to
find the best answer to every situation.
After their banishment, the Kindom falls
apart. Only Milo can bring them back and restore order to the Kingdom. Basic Plot Lines: One day, Milo comes home from school and finds a mysterious package waiting for him. He opens the box and discovers a tollbooth and instructions regarding how to use it. He follows the directions and finds himself in the mysterious Kingdom of Wisdom. The rulers of the kingdom, Azaz the Unabridged (King of Dictionopolis) and the Mathemagician (Monarch of Digitopolis), bitterly argued many years ago over whether words or numbers were more important. When their sisters, Rhyme and Reason, concluded that the two topics carried equal importance, Azaz and the Mathemagician banished the girls. Milo, Tock, and Humbug embark on a dangerous journey to rescue the princesses and restore order to the Kingdom. Throughout his journey, Milo makes new friends, gets arrested, learns how to think, and takes on the task of traveling to the Mountains of Ignorance, battling demons, and rescuing the Princesses Rhyme and Reason. Activity Numero Uno:
One of Norton Juster's most prominent stylistic features is literalizing common idioms like 'jump to conclusions' or 'eat your words.'
As a class, discuss the possibilities if some other common phrases became literal. Here are some to think about:
Get under someone's skin
Have a heart-to-heart talk
Out on a limb
Throw someone for a loop
What makes someone tick Theme #1 Nothing is ever as impossible as it seems. When Milo embarks on his journey to bring back Rhyme and Reason and to save the Kingdom of Wisdom, King Azaz tells him there is one thing Milo may learn only once he returns. "That's why," said Azaz, "there was one very important thing about your quest that we couldn't discuss until you returned.
"I remember," said Milo eagerly. "Tell me now."
"It was impossible," said the king, looking at the Mathemagician.
"Completely impossible," said the Mathemagician, looking at the king.
"Do you mean--" stammered the Humbug, who suddenly felt a bit faint.
"Yes, indeed," the repeated together; "but if we'd told you then, you might not have gone--and, as you've discovered, so many things are p0ssible just as long as you don't know they're impossible." Milo encountered success on his trip, despite the impossibility of his task. This demonstrates that more often than not, we as human beings place unnecessary limits on ourselves, but without those mental blocks, almost anything could be possible. Theme #2 Happiness cannot exist without balance. Throughout his journey, Milo meets people who find a good idea and take it to extremes, turning it into a terrible thing that only makes people unhappy. His struggle to rescue Rhyme and Reason (who work together to find the best solutions) from their banishment, imposed by their extremely one-sided brothers, exemplifies this theme: only after both Rhyme and Reason returned could the Kingdom of Wisdom again be a happy place. "Then one day they had the most terrible quarrel of all. King Azaz insisted that words were far more significant than numbers and hence his kingdom was truly the greater and the Mathemagician claimed that numbers were much more important than words and hence his kingdom was supreme. They discussed and debated and raved and ranted until they were on the verge of blows, when it was decided to submit the question to arbitration by the princesses. After days of careful consideration, in which all the evidence was weighed and all the witnesses heard, they made their decision: 'Words and numbers are of equal value, for, in the cloak of knowledge, one is warp and the other woof. It is no more important to count the sands than it is to name the stars. Therefore, let both kingdoms live in peace.'" Theme #3 Ignorance can always be beaten when confonted with the proper tools. Milo uses a wide assortment of the gifts he received from the various individuals he meets throughtout his quest to save the princesses Rhyme and Reason. These gifts include the words from King Azaz, his "magic staff" (or his pencil) from the Mathemagician, and his telescope from Alec Bings that allows him to see things as they really are rather than as they seem. Milo learns that armed with the proper tools and the right mindset, he could beat the Demons of Ignorance and save the Kingdom of Wisdom. Symbol #1 The Princesses Rhyme and Reason:
Throughout the novel, the princesses symbolize their names: the forces of rhyme and reason.
They contribute greatly to the theme that nothing can exist without balance.
"Everyone loved the princesses because of their great beauty, their gentle ways, and their ability to settle
all controversies fairly and reasonably. People with problems or grievances or arguments came from all
over the land to seek advice, and even the two brothers, who by this time were fighting continuously, often
called upon them to help decide matters of state. It was said by everyone that 'Rhyme and Reason answer all
Symbol #2 The Kingdom of Wisdom and the Mountains of Ignorance:
Again, the Kingdom and the Mountains are the anthropomorphisms of the abstract ideas Wisdom and Ignorance.
"Then one day a small ship appeared on the Sea of Knowledge. It carried a young prince seeking the future. In the name of goodness and truth he laid claim to all the country and set out to explore his new domain. The demons, monsters, and giants were furious at his presumption and banded together to drive him out. The earth shook with their battle, and when they had finished, all that remained to the prince was a small piece of land at the edge of the sea." "Don't be too sure, for one
of the nicest things about mathemtics,
or anything else you might care to learn,
is that many of the things which can never
be, often are. You see, it's very much like your
trying to reach Infinity. You know that it's there,
but you just don't know where--but just because
you can never reach it doesn't mean that it's not
worth looking for."