The Phantom Tollbooth

by: Norton Juster

Motifs

Puns

Juster frequently plays upon the dual meanings of words and expressions to create humorous situations. When Milo orders a "light meal" at Azaz's banquet, he is literally served light. When Milo catches a word on the tip of his tongue in the Soundkeeper's fortress, a word physically appears in his mouth. When the Humbug jumps to the conclusion that nothing more can go wrong with the group's journey, he leaps out of the car and lands on the island of Conclusions. Juster uses puns both to amuse and educate, as these unusual situations often result in Milo learning an important lesson.

Gift Giving

Once he has learned what a given character has to teach him, Milo often receives some sort of gift from them. Considering the importance Juster places on education throughout the book, these interactions are likely meant to suggest that knowledge itself is a gift. It is also significant that the gifts that Milo receives embody the lesson itself and are handy when Milo needs to put his knowledge to work.