The Phantom Tollbooth

Summary

Chapters 9–11

Summary Chapters 9–11

Alec escorts Milo, Tock, and the Humbug to the end of the Forest of Sight, where he bids them farewell and gives Milo a telescope as a gift so that he can "see things as they really are."

The three travelers pile back into the electric car and soon drive up to a carnival-style wagon bearing the sign "KAKOFONOUS A. DISCHORD, DOCTOR OF DISSONANCE." Within they find Dischord himself, a man with ears that are bigger than his head. As a purveyor of noise pills, racket lotion, clamor salve and hubbub tonic, Dischord mixes up a foul sounding substance that Milo and his companions refuse. Rather than waste it, the doctor summons Dynne, his terrible smoke-monster sidekick who gulps down the concoction. Dischord and Dynne talk for a bit about how wonderful noises are and how important they are to life before heading out to make their rounds. They bid Milo to be careful in the Valley of Sound.

Analysis

In this section, Juster forwards the theme of education as Milo learns his next set of lessons in the Lands Beyond. His teachers include Alec Bings, Chroma the Great, and even the wretched Dr. Dischord. From Alec Bings, Milo learns a great deal about perspective. Alec Bings has the unfortunate fate to have to look at things from the same perspective for his entire life. Rather than seeing things differently as he ages, like most people do, Alec will always have the same grown-up outlook. This relates to the motif of nonsense as Alec's unusual situation results in his ability to see everything but that which is right before his eyes. This seems contrary to common sense and creates quite a few problems for the floating boy as the smashes into trees and bushes whenever he tries to run through the forest. It is important to notice that despite the fact that he has only a single, ridiculous perspective, Alec Bings is aware of the multitude of perspectives that different people have. In fact, Milo first meets him because Alec comments that not everyone would think a forest vista is beautiful.

Milo's lesson on perspective continues in the twin cities of Reality and Illusions. Since the residents of Reality have decided to block out their perceptions by turning their heads down and hurrying from place to place, their city has become literally invisible. The city of Illusions is even worse; it does not even exist as anything but a mirage. Here Juster seems to be referring to the tendency of people to rush past the important things in everyday life. Remember that before coming to the Lands Beyond, one of Milo's biggest problems was his inability to appreciate the things around him. In the twin cities, we see what might have happened to poor Milo if he had not corrected his problem: the things around him would have become uninteresting, just as they did in the city of Reality.

Juster also presents the lesson of perspective through the characters Dischord and Dynne. This unlikable pair seems to think that noises are much more enjoyable to hear than beautiful sounds. Dischord seems to think that Milo's ability to appreciate sounds such as music is a "disease" that needs to be cured, much as we might think the same of Dischord. Here Milo is reminded of the well-known idiom that "one man's music is another man's noise" as he and Dischord differ over which sounds they prefer.

Milo learns another lesson in the Forest of Sight, this one from Chroma the Great—or rather Chroma's absence. Without the maestro of color around to set things in their proper order, Milo witnesses what sort of chaos would exist. Juster seems to be further the education theme here by illustrating how important Chroma's knowledge and experience are. Milo thinks that conducting the color orchestra will be easy because, to his untrained eye, it looks that way. When he takes to the podium, he learns just how difficult conducting really is and how unqualified he is to do it. Juster seems to be telling us that in order to color the world properly, one needs the education and experience of Chroma the Great.