Study Guide

The Phantom Tollbooth Chapter 10

By Norton Juster

Chapter 10

A Colorful Symphony

  • The four musketeers – Milo, Tock, the Humbug, and Alec – run through the woods.
  • They are having a great ol' time until they lose their way (although Alec doesn't seem bothered by this anyway).
  • There's a nearby house, so they go up to ask its resident for directions.
  • Alec says the person who lives there is a giant, but the man who opens the door just looks like an average-sized person. He says he's a small giant and sends them to talk to the "midget."
  • When Milo and Tock get to the other end of the house, the person who opens the back door looks just like the "giant." He says he's a big midget, and then he refers them to the "fat man." On the third side of the house, the same man appears (this time, as the "fat" man) and refers Milo and Tock to the "thin man."
  • The thin man appears at the fourth door of the house. Guess what? It's still the same guy. But when Milo points this out, the giant/midget/fat/thin man asks him to keep it to himself. The man plays all these parts so he can feel special. Fair enough.
  • But the man can't tell Milo and Tock where they should go to get un-lost. He just tells them to go away.
  • (The Humbug has slept through all of this, by the way.)
  • Alec wakes the Humbug up and encourages them to keep going. Alec keeps playing tour guide and explains that most of the people that he knows live in a city, called Reality.
  • The group soon passes a beautiful city, but it's not Reality: it's another place called Illusions.
  • Alec takes a sec explains what illusions are. (If you're curious, go check it out and hear it from the source!)
  • Finally, the group gets to the city of Reality. But even though it's all around them, none of them can see it.
  • Alec dives right into Reality's history: it used to be visible, but because its residents never paid attention to it, it slowly slipped away. They didn't take the time to look at it, so it disappeared from sight. All the elements of the city are still there, but no one can see them. And it doesn't seem to matter.
  • Milo says that it's too bad Illusions and Reality can't be one city. Alec responds by saying that they could be one city if Rhyme and Reason came back. (These ladies sure are important, it seems.)
  • Next on the docket, Alec takes them to a musical performance.
  • There's a huge orchestra playing, but Milo can't hear anything. It turns out that the orchestra isn't playing traditional music. As they play, led by an excited conductor, they put different colors into the world: the group has just arrived in time to watch the orchestra play the sunset.
  • The conductor, Chroma, talks with Milo and shows him what would happen to the world if the orchestra didn't play anymore. All the colors of the entire globe would just fade out.
  • Everybody is really impressed. As they should be.
  • Chroma says he's tired and is going to take the night off. He puts Milo in charge and asks him to be an alarm for the next morning.
  • He takes off and everybody else snoozes.