The Phantom Tollbooth
by Norton Juster
The Phantom Tollbooth Philosophical Viewpoints Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"How terribly confusing," he [the Dodecahedron] cried. "Everything here is called exactly what it is. The triangles are called triangles, the circles are called circles, and even the same numbers have the same name. Why, can you imagine what would happen if we named all the twos Henry or George or Robert or John or lots of other things? You'd have to say Robert plus John equals four, and if the four's name were Albert, things would be hopeless." (14.22)
This quote is hilarious. But the more we think about it, the more we realize it's actually pretty fascinating, too. Ironically, the Dodecahedron is both right and wrong. It is confusing when things aren't called by their proper names. So Digitopolis makes more sense in that way. But numbers aren't the same as people. Two 2's are the same as each other, but two people definitely are not. 2 may equal 2, but Robert doesn't equal John, right? Phew, where's that rhyme or reason when you need it?
"Because, my young friends," he [the blank man] muttered sourly, "what could be more important than doing unimportant things? If you stop to do enough of them, you'll never get to where you're going." He punctuated his last remark with a villainous laugh. (17.14)
The Terrible Trivium is kind enough here to tell us his philosophy straight up: "what could be more important than doing unimportant things?" Indeed, what could? This idea probably sounds familiar to anyone who's been most inspired to organize a sock drawer instead of finishing her homework.
"I'm the demon of insincerity," he sobbed. "I don't mean what I say, I don't mean what I do, and I don't mean what I am. Most people who believe what I tell them go the wrong way, and stay there, but you and your awful telescope have spoiled everything. I'm going home." And, crying hysterically, he stamped off in a huff.
"It certainly pays to have a good look at things," observed Milo as he wrapped up the telescope with great care. (17.43-44)
Milo puts Alec's earlier advice to good use here. He has learned that if you really look closely at something, you can see it for what it really is. And it's this ability that saves Milo and his buddies. If they didn't see the demon of insincerity clearly, they might be stuck in this pit forever.