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The Phantom Tollbooth


Chapters 19–20

Summary Chapters 19–20

Milo nearly suffers a gruesome fate at the hands of the demon hordes. Without the aid of the armies of Wisdom, he and his companions would surely have been destroyed by the hordes of demons. The fact that Azaz and the Mathemagician have set aside their differences and come to Milo's (and the princesses') rescue illustrates the important link between Juster's two major themes. Rhyme and Reason, who represent commonsense wisdom, are powerless to fend off the demons of ignorance whereas Azaz and the Mathemagician, who represent the two main areas of education, have the necessary forces. Here Juster demonstrates that wisdom without education is powerless just as education without wisdom is senseless. It is only when the two come together that the demons of ignorance can be defeated.

At the great carnival, Milo learns that the mission he just completed was, in fact, impossible. At this point, Juster addresses the seemingly daunting nature of the dual quests for leaning and wisdom. Many might think that what Milo has done in bringing together the worlds of letters and numbers and freeing the imprisoned forces of true wisdom would be more than they themselves could undertake. Through Azaz's claim that much is possible if one only believes so, Juster addresses these concerns with his characteristic wit.

Similarly, Juster addresses the device of the tollbooth itself. Remember that Milo was stuck in a terrible rut of boredom before the tollbooth appeared in his bedroom. It seems that without the intercession of this magical device, poor Milo would never have been saved. Since there are quite a lot of boys and girls in the same boat as Milo was before his trip, the mysterious sender of the tollbooth has to keep circulating it. The note the sender leaves, however, advises Milo that he can take all sorts of wonderful trips all by himself if he only uses his imagination. Milo decides that this sounds like a heap of fun but, having learned the lessons of wisdom, wants to appreciate the things before his eyes before moving on to his next journey.

Our final image of Milo stands in stark contrast to our first. Rather than being bored and lazy, Milo is inspired and fascinated by his world—so much so that he would rather be there than in the Lands Beyond. He is suddenly eager to look around, to crack open the books gathering dust on his shelves, and to experience the things all around him. This demonstrates the degree to which he has taken to heart the lessons he learned in the Lands Beyond and completes the themes of both wisdom and education.