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The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth


by Norton Juster

The Phantom Tollbooth Cunning and Cleverness Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

"From 2:30 to 3:30 we put off for tomorrow what we could have done today." (2.60)

This is perhaps the funniest part of the Lethargarians' schedule, in which they spend a full hour deciding what they should "have done today" and "put [it] off for tomorrow." But they don't do anything! So even if they could put something off, they have nothing to put off.

Quote #2

"When I arrived, they were determined not to make the same mistake twice and, since it seemed logical that all their children would make the sound, they named me Tock. […] My parents were so overwrought [when they realized that Tock goes 'tick'] that they gave up having any more children and devoted their lives to doing good work among the poor and hungry." (3.8)

Tock's parents attempt to use "logic," but it totally and tragically backfires on them. They try to overcorrect for a previous mistake but they just end up making everything worse. Maybe they're not so smart after all. Or maybe being logical doesn't have much to do with being smart. What do you think?

Quote #3

"I am also the judge. Now would you like a long or a short sentence?"

"A short one, if you please," said Milo.

"Good," said the judge, rapping his gavel three times. How about 'I am'? That's the shortest sentence I know." (5.21-23)

In this moment, we and Milo might feel relieved that Milo's going to get out of this jam with nothing worse than a slap on the wrist. In other words, we're all expecting a prison "sentence," but the sentence the judge gives is simply "I am." This isn't even a punishment. Clever Milo may think he's just gotten out of a jam, but the clever judge has something up his sleeve.

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