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The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth


by Norton Juster

The Phantom Tollbooth Theme of Cunning and Cleverness

Sometimes it might seem as though every single one of the characters in The Phantom Tollbooth is smart. They're able to approach the world in different ways than we do, and they can manipulate language and ideas to get out of dicey situations, or come up with delicious desserts (you know, whatever's required). The longer Milo stays in the Lands Beyond, the more cleverness he picks up, and by the time he visits the Mathemagician, he's ready to deploy a logic bomb he's spent chapter after chapter secretly getting ready. It seems that traveling to the Lands Beyond has unlocked Milo's smartness chip, and he gets to show us all just what he's learned.

Questions About Cunning and Cleverness

  1. What is the one thing that neither King Azaz nor the Mathemagician can tell Milo, and why is it so significant?
  2. How does Milo get the Mathemagician and King Azaz to agree to his plan?
  3. What is the smartest action taken in the book? Who takes it?
  4. Which character receives the greatest punishment for his/her cleverness? Which receives the greatest reward?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Milo proves his worthiness as a candidate to rescue Rhyme and Reason when he convinces King Azaz and the Mathemagician to agree.

Milo is a great example of a hero because he tries things out. He's smart, but he's not afraid to admit when he doesn't know the answer to something.

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