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The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth


by Norton Juster

The Phantom Tollbooth Time Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

"As you can see, that leaves almost no time for brooding, lagging, plodding, or procrastinating, and if we stopped to think or laugh, we'd never get nothing done."

"You mean you'd never get anything done," corrected Milo.

"We don't want to get anything done," snapped another angrily; "we want to get nothing done, and we can do that without your help." (2.65-67)

If you look more closely at this first statement, like Milo does, you might think the Lethargarians are making a grammatical mistake by saying, "we'd never get nothing done." But they're not. They do want to get nothing done. In the Doldrums, the point is to do as little as possible, and the Lethargarians fill up their schedules quite carefully to make sure that's exactly what happens. Every possible minute must be wasted. How does this work out for them?

Quote #2

Milo's eyes opened wide, for there in front of him was a large dog with a perfectly normal head, four feet, and a tail – and the body of a loudly ticking alarm clock.

"What are you doing here?" growled the watchdog. (2.81-82)

This character is a walking pun. He's a watchdog (as in a guard dog), and a dog with a giant watch inside of him. Like a watch, he tells you what time it is. Like a watchdog, he keeps track of how other people are using time and polices them to make sure they do so properly.

Quote #3

"You see," he [Tock] continued, beginning to feel better, "once there was no time at all, and people found it very inconvenient. They never knew whether they were eating lunch or dinner, and they were always missing trains. So time was invented to help them keep track of the day and get places where they should. […] [I]t seemed as if there was much more [time] than could ever be used. […] People wasted it and even gave it away. Then we were given the job of seeing that no one wasted time again". (3.11)

Shmoop wonders how in the world you could even build a train, or a train station without time. Wouldn't all those construction workers just show up whenever they wanted and never get anything done? Despite how crazy this quotation sounds, it poses an interesting question: has time always existed? Or did we humans invent it? We'll give you a minute (or a day) for that whopper of a question to sink in.

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