The Phantom Tollbooth
By norton juster, the phantom tollbooth summary and analysis of chapters 17-20, chapter 17: unwelcoming committee.
Milo , Tock, and the Humbug work on their tasks for a long time and begin to realize they are getting nowhere. The elegant man introduces himself as the Terrible Trivium who is the demon of petty, useless tasks. He promises them fun and ease, and they begin to be beguiled by his words.
Suddenly, though, a voice breaks the spell and urges them to run. They follow the voice but end up in a deep pit. A creature cackles down that he is a monster, but he turns out to be a small furry creature with worried eyes. He admits he is the demon of insecurity and bursts into tears and runs off.
Tock has Milo climb on him and then the Humbug on his shoulders, and they manage to get out of the pit. Not long after, though, they end up in the clutches of the Gelatinous Giant, who resembles a mountain. He roars that he has no real shape and mimics whatever is near him. He decides he will eat them even though Milo asks him to help rescue the princesses. Milo comments that he has a better idea and when the giant says he hates ideas, Milo threatens to release all the ideas from the box. The giant lets them go in fear and rage.
The demons all over the land begin to amass, having heard of the travelers’ presence. They creep and crawl toward Milo and his friends, who run as fast as they can to the castle.
Chapter 18: The Castle in the Air
Racing as fast as they can, they finally espy the staircase leading up into the sky. When they approach, they encounter a small round man who briskly asks for their names. He introduces himself as the Senses Taker and asks them question after question after question. Milo begins to despair, but he and his friends begin to see visions of wonderful things. The spell is broken when he accidentally drops his gift bag and the sounds burst forth discordantly.
The Senses Taker cackles that he steals people’s sense of duty and proportion and more, but rues that he cannot take their sense of humor. Before he can say more, they see the demons approaching and start ascending the dizzy, narrow stairs.
It is a terrifying and precipitous climb, but they finally reach the Castle. The two lovely princesses greet them. Milo is struck by their beauty and grace. Reason tells them they are safe and should rest for a moment. She also encourages Milo not to fret about the mistakes he has made, and Rhyme chimes in that it is learning what to do with what you learn that matters. Everything has a purpose and affects everyone and everything.
Below they hear a tremendous crash; the demons destroyed the staircase. The Humbug asks how they will get down and Tock says that because time flies, he can help. The princesses sit on Tock, and Milo and the Humbug hold on tightly, as Tock flies them out of the castle.
Chapter 19: The Return of Rhyme and Reason
When they alight, they still have to flee the screaming, ravenous demons. A multitude of demons have amassed by now, including the Horrible Hopping Hindsight, the Gorgons of Hate and Malice, the Overbearing Know-it-all, the Threadbare Excuse, and of course Trivium and the Giant.
Milo and the others are almost to the wide path outside the mountains, but the demons overtake them. Incredibly, though, they see the Armies of Wisdom before them, joined by friends like Dr. Dischord and the DYNNE , the Soundkeeper, Azaz and the Mathemagician, Chroma the Great , and the Spelling Bee. They defeat the monstrous creatures and force them back to their hovels.
The five advisers to Azaz rush to Milo and offer him many words of congratulations. The kingdom is filled with elation and celebration. People break into cheers and cries of delight, and the victors parade through the streets.
As Milo sits with the two kingly brothers, they tell him what they’d not told him before – that his journey was impossible. However, they add, “so many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible” (247).
The celebrations begin, and include parades and song and a royal banquet. Unfortunately, Milo realizes he will have to return home. He sadly bids his friends farewell and thanks them for what they taught him.
Chapter 20: Good-by and Hello
Milo heads back toward the tollbooth and wonders how long he’s been gone. He assumes it has been several weeks. He deposits his coin in the booth and finds himself in his room; only an hour has passed.
The next day, Milo goes to school but is anxious to return home to the tollbooth. He plans to go on another adventure. When he enters his room, though, he is dismayed to see the tollbooth is gone. He finds a note that thanks him for completing his trip and that other boys and girls will now get to use the tollbooth. He will no doubt find many marvelous things to see on his own. The signature is blurry and cannot be read.
At first Milo is lonely and dismayed, and he misses his friends. However, he notices the sky outside is blue and the trees are lovely and green. There are walks to take, caterpillars to watch, and voices to hear. Inside his own room are things to build and make; there is music to play and songs to sing. Milo is happy, and jumps to his feet and proclaims that he would like to make another trip, but doesn’t know when he will have time to do so since there are so many things to do right here.
Milo’s heroic journey has finally come to a close. He made it away from the clutches of the Terrible Trivium and the other demons, rescued the princesses and brought them back to the kingdom, and returned back home equipped with his new lessons. Looking at Campbell’s steps, we can start with the allies and enemies. The Terrible Trivium is usually considered one of the more truly disturbing characters; his blank face, beguiling persona, and charisma unsettle and entice in equal parts. Juster based him off of his own tendency toward becoming bogged down in trivia and procrastination, which no doubt adds to the character’s power. The Sisyphean tasks Milo, Tock, and the Humbug receive are also terrible to contemplate, and tellingly it is not even their own ingenuity that helps them escape. Other enemies include the myriad of demons the characters face on their path to the Castle, as well as the obnoxious and devious Senses Taker.
The demons populate the “approach” and “ordeal” portion of the journey. Like Alice nearing the rabbit and encountering the Red Queen , Frodo and Sam making it to the edge of Mordor, and Dorothy arriving at Oz, Milo, Tock, and the Humbug rush toward their end goal. It is one of the more perilous moments; Juster writes, “Like a giant corkscrew, the stairway twisted through the darkness, steep and narrow and with no rail to guide them. The wind howled cruelly in an effort to tear them loose, and the fog dragged clammy fingers down their back; but up the giddy flight they went, each helping the others, until at last the clouds parted, the darkness fell away, and a glow of golden sunrays warmed their arrival” (231). Indeed, this passage can encapsulate the whole journey from beginning to end.
The “ordeal” concludes with the final battle between the demons and the Armies of Wisdom, populated with allies Milo made on his journey. It is significant that Milo doesn’t defeat the demons all by himself; he is no larger-than-life hero, no Odysseus or King Arthur. Rather, he needs his friends and allies to help, and he is open about needing the help and appreciating it. Tock in particular is indispensable for his wisdom, practicality, and even physical strength. In an interview, Juster explained, “Tock was inspired by the old radio program ‘Jack Armstrong.’ I was looking for companions for Milo to travel with and the first one needed to be stalwart and dependable and truthful and you could bet your life on him and he’d always be there in an emergency.”
Milo’s “reward” of the journey is primarily in lessons learned and the newfound purpose, curiosity, and fulfillment he will feel when he returns home. Reason assures him, “You must never feel badly about making mistakes” (233) and Rhyme tells him “it’s not just learning things that’s important. It’s learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn things at all that matters” (233). This has echoes of Gandalf’s speech to Frodo regarding our inability to control how much time is given to us in this life but how we do have the ability to control what we do with that time. Rhyme also adds, “whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else” (233). Later both the Mathemagician and King Azaz articulate another important lesson: “so many things are possible just as long as you don’t know they’re impossible” (247).
Milo’s “road back” opens before him almost against his will. He thinks he will stay in this wonderful world, but learns he must return to his own world. His disappointment is somewhat mitigated by the fact that he assumes he can use the tollbooth again to escape, but when he returns home from school the next day, he realizes it is gone forever. The final stage of the journey that applies to Phantom is the “resurrection.” It is perhaps too dramatic a word here, but Milo is certainly reborn in some sense. His moments of doubt and loneliness pass and he emerges stronger, more content, and more self-aware than ever. No longer bored and depressed and opposed to arbitrary learning, he realizes “there were voices to hear and conversations to listen to in wonder, and the special smell of each day” (255). He feels “the excitement of everything he didn’t know” and feels a sense of thrill about “the worlds to imagine and then someday make real” (256). As critic Adam Gopnik asserts about the novel’s message, “Learning isn’t a set of things we know but a world we enter.”
The Phantom Tollbooth Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Phantom Tollbooth is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Chapters 9-10 before you. Read
Are you referring to chapter 9 or 10?
What decree does soundkeeper issue
Since people had stopped appreciating sound, the Soundkeeper issued a decree abolishing all sound in the valley. The people in the crowd tell Milo that the Valley of Sound has been silent ever since.
Study the word rigmarole. Why did the count pass the breadbasket when offering a rigmarole?
I think that in this context, a rigmarole is a kind of croissant passed in a breadbasket.
Study Guide for The Phantom Tollbooth
The Phantom Tollbooth study guide contains a biography of Norton Juster, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
- About The Phantom Tollbooth
- The Phantom Tollbooth Summary
- Character List
Lesson Plan for The Phantom Tollbooth
- About the Author
- Study Objectives
- Common Core Standards
- Introduction to The Phantom Tollbooth
- Relationship to Other Books
- Bringing in Technology
- Notes to the Teacher
- Related Links
- The Phantom Tollbooth Bibliography
Wikipedia Entries for The Phantom Tollbooth
- Influences and comparisons
- study guides
- lesson plans
- homework help
The Phantom Tollbooth - Chapter 20, Good-by and Hello Summary & Analysis
Chapter 20, Good-by and Hello Summary
Milo retraces his journey home, a little concerned that someone might be worried about his extended absence. He finds the tollbooth with no trouble. He ends up back in his bedroom, and it is only 6:00 on the very day he left. Exhausted by his adventures, Milo soon falls asleep.
At school the following day, Milo's head is full of plans for a return trip to the Lands Beyond. When he gets home, the tollbooth is gone. A letter addressed to MILO, WHO NOW KNOWS THE WAY tells Milo that other boys and girls need the Phantom Tollbooth, and Milo will surely find a way back if he really wants to. Milo is sad at the thought of not seeing his new friends, but soon realizes that there is so much to do and see and learn right...
(read more from the Chapter 20, Good-by and Hello Summary)
More on The Phantom Tollbooth
Introduction see all, summary see all, themes see all.
- Language and Communication
- Philosophical Viewpoints
- Freedom and Confinement
- Cunning and Cleverness
- Versions of Reality
Characters See All
- Rhyme and Reason
- The Mathemagician
- The Soundkeeper
- Faintly Macabre
- The Dodecahedron
- King Azaz's Cabinet
- The 0.58 Boy
- Officer Shrift
- The Lethargarians
- Chroma the Great
- Dr. Dischord and the DYNNE
- The Spelling Bee
- Minor Characters
Analysis See All
- What's Up With the Title?
- What's Up With the Ending?
- Writing Style
- The Phantom Tollbooth
- The Doldrums
- The Castle in the Air
- The Tollbooth
- Narrator Point of View
- Plot Analysis
Quotes See All
- For Teachers
The Phantom Tollbooth Introduction
A book about learning? Yuck – no, thank you. Next?
Wait a second, not so fast. The Phantom Tollbooth is here to show you, once and for all, that learning can be fun (whoa, just like Shmoop!). Imagine if you had a magic pencil to math your way out of sticky situations, or a box of words that helped you defeat evil demons. Sounding a little better, right?
Here's the deal: The Phantom Tollbooth tells the story of a bored kid named Milo, who takes an exciting journey through a magical kingdom, and in the process learns that life (and learning, too) isn't so boring after all. In fact, Shmoop would argue that every single word in this book is fun. Don't believe us? Take a look for yourself.
We've got magic, demons, a young hero, and a general spirit of fun and awesomeness. You younger readers have probably already bolted off to the library to get your hands on a copy of this gem. But for those of you more cynical fun-isn't-for-me types, read on. Ann McGovern, who wrote a rave review for the New York Times when the book was first published, gushed, " Norton Juster 's amazing fantasy has something wonderful for anybody old enough to relish the allegorical wisdom of 'Alice in Wonderland' and the pointed whimsy of 'The Wizard of Oz'" ( source ). We're totally with her. The allegories of The Phantom Tollbooth add a layer of learning that even the wisest of adults can appreciate.
Sure, the book was published in 1961, but guess what? Learning is still fun. And as long as you open your mind to it, it always will be. The Phantom Tollbooth didn't rack up many awards, but it won the most important prize of all: the enduring love of its readers.
What is The Phantom Tollbooth About and Why Should I Care?
Do you ever get bored in class? Antsy at dinner with your family? Do you have a room full of stuff and nothing to do? (Yeah, us too). It can be kind of a bummer, but it definitely helps us identify with our protagonist, Milo. He's almost lethally bored with everything. School's the worst for him – he's totally uninspired by learning things – but relaxation time isn't much better.
Luckily for Milo, rescue appears, in the form of a tollbooth. He drives through it and – BAM! – life's not boring any more. Wouldn't it be cool to go home and find one of these in your own room? Be able to drive through it and go on an adventure of your own? Well, guess what: you don't even need a tollbooth. You just need this book.
After all, when Milo gets back from his journey, he's still got all the tools he needs to have another great adventure any time he wants: they're all inside his head. And because we were along for the ride, we have all have those same tools. We can make the same discoveries Milo does: it's just a matter of viewing the world around us with hope and excitement. We learn a lot of lessons from The Phantom Tollbooth, but Shmoop's favorite is that learning and imagination can take us anywhere.
PS: If you're thinking that Milo's story, which was written in the 1960s, doesn't apply to you, we think you should give it another shot. And author Norton Juster agrees with us: "Today's world of texting and tweeting is quite a different place, but children are still the same as they've always been. They still get bored and confused, and still struggle to figure out the important questions of life" ( source ). Boredom is boredom, and adventure's adventure, no matter what year it is.
The Phantom Tollbooth Resources
For the Phans Check out the inside dirt on The Phantom Tollbooth at this site, which advertises an in-depth documentary about the book.
Wordplay Michael Chabon riffs on his first reading of The Phantom Tollbooth (this is also part of an introduction to the novel as published by Knopf).
The Phantom Tollbooth , Animated The 1970 movie version of the book, directed by Chuck Jones, is partly in cartoon form. We think that's kind of fitting.
The Phantom Tollbooth : 2013 Yes, please!
Original New York Times Review Ann McGovern raves about The Phantom Tollbooth when it first came out. Throwback!
Fifty Years Later Adam Gopnik takes his stab at The Phantom Tollbooth : the fiftieth anniversary of the book really sparked a lot of talk. And we couldn't be happier.
Interview with the Man Salon.com's Laura Miller talks with Norton Juster about The Phantom Tollbooth , the writing process, and life in general. We like this guy.
Old School Trailer Here's a preview of the 1970 movie, although we recommend checking out the whole thing. What do you think? Is that how you pictured the Lands Beyond?
Preview the musical! This YouTube short gives you an idea of what the full-length musical (music and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and Arnold Black) is like. Pretty impressive.
Have a Listen David Hyde Pierce takes a stab at it: how do you think he did? (If you like it, you can buy the whole thing on Amazon.com !)
The Original This cover illustration – now a classic – was done by Jules Feiffer.
This is Definitely from the 70s What do you think: does this poster make you want to check out the film version?
Milo Down in the dumps.
The Lands Beyond This map often appears as the frontispiece (that's the fancy way of saying the picture at the front of a book) of The Phantom Tollbooth .
The Phantom Tollbooth Introduction Study Group
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The Phantom Tollbooth Chapter 20
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What time was it when Milo arrived back home from his journey?
Only one hour had passed since he had departed on his journey.
He had been away for several hours.
Many months had passed since he passed the tollbooth.
When Milo returned from school the next day, what was he expecting to see in his room? What did he see?
Milo expected to see tock in his room. However, he noticed that it's the Humbug. Milo found another tollbooth.
Milo expected to see Rhyme and Reason in his room. However, he noticed that the tollbooth had vanished. Milo found another bright light.
Milo expected to see the tollbooth in his room. However, he noticed that the tollbooth had vanished. Milo found another bright blue envelope.
How was the second bright blue envelope addressed?
FOR MILO, WHO NOW KNOWS THE WAY.
FOR MILO, WHO NOW KNOWS THE WAY HOME.
FOR MILO, WHO NOW KNOWS THE WAY HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS.
Explore one or two of the lessons Milo learnt during his journey?
He learns the value of money and sleep. He also learned the importance of understanding his friends.
He learns the importance of words, letters, phrases and numbers. He also learned the importance of perspectives and understanding the world around him.
He learns the importance family and friends. He also learned the importance of going to different places can cost him a lot of time.
The Phantom Tollbooth fits into which of the following genres?
fantasy and adventure
realistic fiction and memoir
adventure and non-fiction
Which word best describes Milo at the end of the novel?
Rhyme and Reason represent ___________
What do you think would happen if all people lack common sense?
I think it would be _________________.
Azaz and the Mathemagician represent education and _____________.
Do you believe that "knowledge" can give you "power"?
Why/Why not (Give at least 2 reasons)
I agree/disagree because ______________ and ____________.
Which demons never get anywhere?
Triple Demons of Compromise
Gorgons of Hate and Malice
Even tough Tock does not give Milo a tangible gift, he teaches him a valuable lesson. What lesson does Milo learn from Tock?
Tock teaches Milo that words and numbers are equally important.
Tock teaches Milo how to be resourceful and use what you have effectively.
Tock teaches Milo that time is precious and should not be wasted.
What did Mathemagician tell MIlo when he returned from the quest?
He said the he and Azaz are really the same person.
The mission was impossible. If he had told him, he would not have tried to rescue the princesses.
He inspired Milo to dump Tock and the Humbug and become a solo act.
Time flies is an example of
Select the two synonyms of compromise.
settlement and agreement
skirmish and quarrel
lack and famine
Select two synonyms of assurance.
bashful and timid
composure and confidence
worried and apprehensive
Which vocabulary word means unstable, shaky, wobbly, risky?
The author demonstrates that wisdom without education is _____________ just as education without wisdom is senseless. It is only when the two come together that the demons of _____________ can be defeated.
What are two ideas found in the novel?
puns and gift giving
violence and revenge
sadness and anger
Who is the protagonist?
Princesses Rhyme and Reason
Who are your top 3 favorite characters?
My favorite characters are ____________.
What is the biggest lesson that you've learned in the novel?
The biggest lesson I learned is __________.
Would you like to go on a meaningful adventure like Milo? Why/Why not?
I'd _____________ because _______________.
If you were to choose between knowledge and power, which would you pick and why?
I choose __________ because ____________.
Based on the novel, what demon do you think is the most difficult to defeat?
I think _______ is the most difficult because ____________.
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The Phantom Tollbooth
Norton juster, everything you need for every book you read..