Study Guide

The Phantom Tollbooth Chapter 2

By Norton Juster

Chapter 2

Beyond Expectations

  • So, Milo goes on his merry way. To his total shock, once he passes the tollbooth, he leaves his house and ends up on a road he's never seen before.
  • This kind of thing could freak out even the most well-balanced of us. Milo stays cool, though, and just decides to roll with it.
  • He passes through a beautiful area that he learns is called Expectations. He sees a sign that says if he sounds the car's horn, he can get some facts. That seems easy.
  • Milo immediately presses the horn and is introduced to a guy who calls himself the Whether Man.
  • Milo tries to ask whether he's going the correct way to get to Dictionopolis, and the Whether Man replies with a lot of nonsense about what it means to be on the "right road" versus the "wrong road" (2.9). Not super helpful.
  • The Whether Man says he definitely isn't the Weather Man, and tells Milo a little bit about Expectations. He's worried it will rain.
  • Milo makes his escape from this strange dude (and as he does, the Whether Man gets drenched by rain). As he drives, his mind wanders, and he ends up going down a path that perhaps he shouldn't have taken.
  • The pretty landscape fades away to repetitive boringness, and Milo feels like each little part of the road takes forever to cross. His little car loses speed until it halts.
  • A group of small people called the Lethargarians – who, like chameleons, blend almost entirely into their surroundings – tell Milo where he is. This part of the land is called the Doldrums.
  • The Lethargarians take turns talking in order to sloooooooooowly explain what it's like to live in the Doldrums. And boy, do we mean slowly.
  • They aren't "allowed to think in the Doldrums" (2.41). Sure enough, there's an official law about this that Milo sees in his "rule book" (2.42). Also in this not-so-awesome place, they can't find things funny. Shmoop is not a fan.
  • These slow-talkers have a very strict calendar of events each day, where they do different types of nothing that are all very strictly laid out. Yay for nothing!
  • Their attitude seems a little like Milo's was in Chapter 1, no? The Lethargarians encourage Milo to hang out with them, and he's strongly considering it.
  • But then, the watchdog shows up.
  • This isn't any old watchdog: he's an ordinary dog whose torso (body) is really an alarm clock. The Lethargarians are totally freaked out by this and they all run away.
  • The dog/clock scolds Milo and tells him how to get out of the Doldrums. The answer? He has to actively think.
  • Milo works on this, and when Milo's little car starts working again, the clock dog hitches a ride. They leave the Doldrums far behind. Whew.