From the creators of SparkNotes, something better.

by

# The Phantom Tollbooth: Chapter 14. The Dodecahedron Leads the Way Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The road suddenly splits into three and a sign appears. There are arrows pointing down all three roads and the sign says how far away Digitopolis is in various units of measurement. The Humbug suggests they travel by miles, while Milo suggests it’d be shorter to go by half inches. Tock doesn’t care what units they use; he thinks they need to pick a road. As they argue, a small, strange figure steps out. He’s “constructed” of lines and angles that comes together into a many-sided shape. (The narrator directs readers to look at the picture to see what they mean.)
Here, Tock essentially encourages Milo and the Humbug to not get lost in specifics. Whatever units they use to measure their travel, the bigger question is which road to take. Milo’s suggestion that it’d be “shorter” to use half inches betrays how little he knows about math—choosing a smaller unit of measurement doesn’t make a measurement any shorter.
Themes
The figure introduces himself as the Dodecahedron, which is a shape with 12 faces. He shows off his 12 faces; each has a different expression. When Milo introduces himself, the Dodecahedron frowns—Milo only has one face, and his name is odd. The Dodecahedron thinks it’s strange that other people with only one face have names like John or George—around here, “everything is called exactly what it is.” This is Digitopolis, and everything is very precise.
The Dodecahedron’s many faces are funny—but his inability to understand that a human face isn’t the same as a shape’s face (meaning one of its sides) shows how lacking Digitopolis is in figurative “rhyme or reason.” He doesn’t allow for the possibility that everything isn’t “called exactly what it is.” A person’s name or appearance, for instance, aren’t the full story of who they are.
Themes
Milo asks the Dodecahedron which road they should take. In response, the Dodecahedron gives a math problem asking which of the three cars going at different speeds along different routes will arrive at their destination first. The Humbug shouts that the answer is 17, while Milo can’t figure it out and admits he’s bad at math problems. The Dodecahedron says that’s a shame. With math, you know that if a small beaver can build a small dam in two days, a massive beaver could build Boulder Dam. The Humbug mutters that beavers don’t come that big, but the Dodecahedron notes that if you could find one, “you’d certainly know what to do with him.” Milo insists that’s absurd, and the Dodecahedron says it’s accurate nevertheless—if you want the questions to be right, you have to find some sense.
Absurdity can be fun—the Dodecahedron’s anecdote about what a massive beaver can do is ridiculous and funny. But, as Humbug and Milo note, this isn’t the most useful way of looking at things if one wants to solve a practical problem—like building such a large dam. For that matter, beaver dams differ wildly from manmade dams, so this is also a language misunderstanding (as when the Dodecahedron got confused about Milo’s name having nothing to do with his single face). Digitopolis’s focus on only numbers makes it difficult for the Dodecahedron to effectively and meaningfully communicate with the newcomers.
Themes
Related Quotes