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The Phantom Tollbooth

Main Ideas Key Facts
Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  The Phantom Tollbooth

author  Norton Juster

type of work  Novel

genre  Young adult, Fiction, Fantasy

language  English

time and place written  1961; Hampshire, England.

date of first publication  1961

publisher  Epstein & Carroll Associates

narrator  Anonymous

point of view  The point of view is from a third person omniscient narrator who skips from character to character, revealing a number of characters' thoughts and actions.

tone  The tone in the book is playful and fantastic. Though there are moments of serious danger, such as Milo's encounters with the demons of ignorance, the book reads mostly like a whimsical fairy tale.

tense  Past tense

setting (time)  Unclear, but relatively modern

setting (place)  The Lands Beyond, a strange fantasyland.

protagonist  Milo

major conflict  To release the princesses Rhyme and Reason from imprisonment in the Castle in the Air.

rising action  After Faintly Macabre tells him the story of the princesses' disappearance, King Azaz charges him with the mission of finding and releasing them.

climax  After much travel and difficulty, Milo find the princesses and manages to get them out of the Castle in the Air. Once on the ground, the group is surrounded by hordes of demons.

falling action  The armies of Wisdom, led by Azaz and his brother the Mathemagician route the demons and welcome Rhyme and Reason back to the land.

themes  The value of education; appreciating the things of everyday life; learning to use common sense; escaping boredom

motifs  Puns; gift giving.

symbols  Rhyme and Reason, Milo's gifts, Tock

foreshadowing  When he gives Milo his mission, Azaz tells him that there is a serious problem with the quest. However, he will only tell Milo about it once he has completed his journey. The secret, it turns out, is that Milo's mission is impossible.