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The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth


by Norton Juster

The Phantom Tollbooth Versions of Reality Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

"I don't think there really is such a country," he concluded after studying it [the map] carefully. "Well, it doesn't matter anyway." And he closed his eyes and poked a finger at the map. (1.27)

Because Milo doesn't believe the "country" shown on the map is real, in a weird way, he doesn't have to worry about what might happen if he goes there. He temporarily has the carefree feeling of getting to imagine what it would be like to visit part of it, because he doesn't think he'll "really" end up getting there in the long run.

Quote #2

Suddenly he found himself speeding along an unfamiliar country highway, and as he looked back over his shoulder neither the tollbooth nor his room nor even the house was anywhere in sight. What had started as make-believe was now very real. (2.1)

It's almost like Milo outsmarted himself here. He didn't think the version of reality presented in the map was a real one, so he set out on a "journey" with no thought for the consequences. But the journey ends up being "real." Uh-oh. Do you think he's excited at this point, or totally terrified?

Quote #3

"Easy as falling off a log," cried the earl, falling off a log with a loud thump.

"Must you be so clumsy?" shouted the duke.

"All I said was – " began the earl, rubbing his head.

"We heard you," said the minister angrily, "and you'll have to find an expression that's less dangerous." (3.86-89)

In our world, we can use "expression[s]" that are as flamboyant and "dangerous" as we want. In fact, the more descriptive and vivid the expression, the better off we might be in conveying the idea or mood we're trying to communicate. But in Dictionopolis, expressions are literal. So if you say one, it actually happens. The next time you use an expression, an idiom, or other figurative language, stop and think about what would happen if you literally had to carry out the words of that expression. It just might be worse than falling off a log.

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