Study Guide

The Phantom Tollbooth Chapter 9

By Norton Juster

Chapter 9

It's All in How You Look at Things

  • Milo, Tock, and the Humbug drive along. They're in uncharted territory, and the Humbug talks about "quests" (9.2).
  • As they drive, the landscape changes significantly. They see a sign that says they will be arriving at a "Point of View." Sounds nice to us.
  • They stop the car and meet a new person, a boy who's hovering in the air. The boy's feet are about as tall as Milo's head.
  • The boy says that things depend on how you look at them. He gives several examples, and then explains why he's so high up in the air. His whole family starts out at the height they're going to be. Then, as they get older, their heads stay at the same height while their feet grow closer to the ground. It's the opposite of how people like Milo see the world.
  • The boy, who is named Alec, explains that he can "see through things" (9.31). This is usually an advantage, but it means that often he can't see the things that are closest to him. He tells Milo, Tock, and the Humbug what each of them is thinking about.
  • Milo realizes that he could share Alec's viewpoint if he wanted to – this would make him reach the same height and dangle in the air, too – but this is too hardcore for him. He decides he'd rather stay as he is.
  • All four characters talk about the importance of having their own ways of looking at the world.
  • Alec emphasizes this by talking about how a certain amount of water could seem like a ton to a small animal and like practically nothing to a huge animal. Good point, Al.
  • Alec offers to show the others around. As they start the tour, Alec talks about the people who are upside down and "grow up toward the sky" (9.46). They can get into the heavens, according to the legends he knows.