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Phantom Tollbooth Study Guide
Describe Milo’s Character at the beginning of the novel:
Listless, pessimistic, dull, no interests, no passion, clueless, does not know what to do
with himself, unaware of the world around him, has lots of time, not busy, lacks
confidence, negative attitude towards life, never satisfied, unhappy, gloomy,
Describe Milo’s character at the end of the novel:
Vibrant, interested in the world, values knowledge and experience, has an open and
thoughtful mind, on the move, accepting of his mistakes, perseveres against difficulties,
connected to the world, looking forward to the future with a positive hopeful attitude.
What is the central conflict of the novel? The central conflict is that there is a feud
between the world of words, King Azaz, and the world of numbers, his brother the
Mathemagician. They have banished their twin sisters, Rhyme and Reason, in the Castle
in the Air and so nothing is beautiful nor does anything make any sense.
What is the setting of the novel? The setting of the novel is the Land Beyond the
Tollbooth, a fantastic imaginary country full of strange, wonderful creatures who do not
follow the natural laws. Many have odd ways of thinking or speaking.
How do you know this is a fantasy novel? This novel has characters which violate the
laws of nature by floating in space, getting color from a symphony, putting sounds in a
file cabinet, words growing on trees, numbers are mined, there is a .58 child, an infinity
stairway, flying dogs with clocks, and other monsters and demons.
Climax of the Novel: The climax of the novel is the rescue of Milo, Rhyme, and Reason
by both King Azaz and the Mathemagician in a battle between the united forces of
Wisdom against the demons who come from the Mountains of Ignorance.
Milo meets a fat man, a thin man, a giant and a midget. How many people did he
actually meet? Milo met just one ordinary person; his size depends on your perspective.
Is Monsignor Haddad a large school or a small one? The answer to this question
depends upon your point of view. Compared to some schools it is large, but to others it is
small.
What happens when the color symphony stops?
The world becomes black and white like a coloring book.
Why has the Soundkeeper refused to allow the sounds to escape?
The Soundkeeper’s job was to protect and preserve all the sounds in the world, but
because Rhyme and Reason are missing, she has forgotten her true purpose and just
hangs on to every sound for no reason. The Which has lost her true purpose, too, to use
the correct number of words, as has the Mathemagician forgotten the true value of things.
Milo and the dreary people of Reality share a behavior. What do the people of
Reality do that Mile remembers he has done also on his way home from school?
Milo walks about looking down at his shoes and does not observe the beauty of the world
around him. He is oblivious to his surroundings
The King’s advisors, the Duke of Definition, the Minister of Meaning, the Earl of
Essence, the Count of Connotation and the Undersecretary of Understanding,
repeat each other’s comments in a slightly different way using what kind of speech?
Synonyms. (check pages 38- 40 in the book)
Because the Mathemagician could count and measure everything, but knew the
value of nothing, what did he discard from the number mine?
The miners would throw away the jewels, gold and silver found in the mine.
Where did this book say words come from? Words grow on trees.
Where did this book say numbers come from? Numbers come from the number mine.
What happens when you eat subtraction stew? You become more hungry.
Words you must know:
lethargy
cacophony
macabre
din
doldrums
phantom
hindsight
dismal
malice
innumerable
dodecahedron
discord
perspective
short shrift
feud
Characters you must know:
Lethargarians
Alec Bings
Tock
Soundkeeper
King Azaz, the Unabridged Mathemagician
Faintly Macabre
Dodecahedron
Officer Shrift
Kakofonous A. Dischord
Dynne
The Terrible Trivium
Demon of Insincerity
Senses Taker
Rhyme and Reason
Milo is nearly prevented from even reaching the Mountains of Ignorance on three (3)
occasions:
1. He gets lost by not paying attention, nearly falls asleep with the Lethargarians and
drifts away from his intentions in the Doldrums. Tock rescues him from this fate.
2. He is imprisoned by Officer Shrift for 6 million years in a dungeon in Dictionopolis
but the Which, Faintly Macabre, shows him a way to escape.
3. He is caught by the stairway to infinity and is only rescued by giving up. It is good to
be resolute and to persevere, but not if the task is futile!
What gifts have Milo been given, who gives them to him, and how are they useful?
Ideas and Words were given by King Azaz and they protect against the Gelatinous Giant.
Sound of Laughter were given by the Soundkeeper to protect against the Senses Taker.
A Telescope, to see things as they really are, given by Alec Bings and used against the
Demon of Insincerity.
Pencil Staff given by Mathemagician which protects against the Terrible Trivium.
Know literal versus figurative language, a square meal, a light lunch.
It is easy to jump to conclusions but it takes a long, cold swim in the Sea of Knowledge
to get back.
Milo has been woken up by Tock, has had his eyes and ears opened, and been made
aware of the importance, not just of words and numbers, but of making sense and beauty
in the world. But, there are evil forces in the Mountains of Ignorance working against
him.
Terrible Trivium- Meaningless tasks eat our time and prevent us from doing what we
intend.
The Dirty Bird - A nuisance, not a demon, who takes words out of context-homophones.
Gelatinous Giant – Conforms to every setting, afraid of all new ideas.
Demon of Insincerity – lies and deceives with untrue, exaggerated statements.
The Senses Taker – uses mountains of red tape to bog down the unwary.
Horrible Hopping Hindsight, Overbearing Know it all, Triple Demons of
Compromise, Gorgons of Hate and Malice, Gross Exaggeration.
Locate on the map the following places Milo visits; (look in the front of the book)
The Doldrums
The City of Dictionopolis
Forest of Sight Valley of Sound
Sea of Knowledge City of Digitopolous
Mountains of Ignorance
Theme
Milo learns the importance of words, point of view, the color of the world, the sounds of
the world, and the numbers of the world as he journeys to the Castle in the Air. He
makes one final important realization when he is with the princesses. He recognizes that
it is okay to make mistakes so long as you learn from them. He returns appreciative of
the beauty and sense in the world around him and the value of knowledge and beauty.
Once he returns home, he will no longer waste time or ignore the beauty around him.
Word Play
Words taken out of Context (Wordsnatcher); senses taker /census taker; Officer Shrift is
gives short shrift to Milo. The Which isn’t a witch and only faintly macabre, the watch
dog has a clock and can make time fly, doctor who loves loud noise is Dr. Kakcfonous
AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE Dischord and his equally loud friend the Dynne.
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