The Phantom Tollbooth
by Norton Juster
The Phantom Tollbooth Cunning and Cleverness Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"But – " he started to say, and it got no further than that. For while he was about to say that he didn't think that that was quite fair (a thought to which the obstinate Soundkeeper might not have taken kindly) he suddenly discovered the way he would carry his little sound from the fortress. In the instant between saying the word and before it sailed off into the air he had clamped his lips shut – and the "but" was trapped in his mouth, all made but not spoken. (12.104)
Milo has one of his smartest moments in the book. Problem is, it's totally by accident. Try as he might, he hasn't been able to figure out a way to "carry his little sound from the fortress" and therefore bring back a weapon the villagers can use to rescue all the other sounds. It's only when he's "about to say" something and holds it back just in time that he has the brainwave of sneaking out an almost-"spoken" word. Smart? Or just lucky?
"If you had high hopes, how would you know how high they were? And did you know that narrow escapes come in all different widths? Would you travel the whole wide world without ever knowing how wide it was? And how could you do anything at long last," he [the Dodecahedron] concluded, waving his arms over his head, "without knowing how long the last was? Why, numbers are the most beautiful and valuable things in the world. Just follow me and I'll show you." (14.52)
The Dodecahedron's comments here seem to suggest that words and phrases depend on numbers. All the phrases he mentions – which you'd probably have to eat if you were in Dictionopolis – are not fully comprehensible unless you can do the calculations they rely on. And to do those calculations, you need "the most beautiful and valuable things in the world": "numbers." In Digitopolis, you had better be a mathlete.
"Then each of you agrees that he will disagree with whatever each of you agrees with," said Milo triumphantly; "and if you both disagree with the same thing, then aren't you really in agreement?"
"I'VE BEEN TRICKED!" cried the Mathemagician helplessly, for no matter how he figured, it still came out just that way. (16.56-57)
In what might be Milo's finest moment, he does the clever thing he's been working on secretly for much of the book. He fools the Mathemagician into admitting that he really does "agree" with Azaz this one time. Although they were both agreeing by default, since they both thought they couldn't agree with each other, Milo points out that the Mathemagician and Azaz were already agreeing, because they had agreed to disagree. Phew. That was a mouthful.