The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth

by

Norton Juster

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The Phantom Tollbooth: Chapter 19. The Return of Rhyme and Reason Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Tock flies just past the demons and, with Rhyme and Reason still on his back, leads the way down the mountainside. The demons shriek. Milo looks back as he runs and sees the Triple Demons of Compromise, who settle their disputes by doing what none of them want. He notices the Horrible Hopping Hindsight, who leaps before he looks and is happy as long as he knows he did what he shouldn’t have. Most terrifying are the Gorgons of Hate and Malice. Tock shouts for them to run faster, and Milo catches sight of the Overbearing Know-it-all, which is mostly mouth and spreads misinformation. Then comes the Gross Exaggeration, who “mangle[s] the truth.” The Threadbare Excuse tags along.
Meeting all these other demons introduces readers to literal, physical manifestations of some of the world’s problems. Through them, the novel suggests that compromise isn’t always the best way to settle a dispute, since it might mean that nobody is happy. The fact that Milo and his friends are running so hard away from these demons speaks to the idea that these are the things keeping people from becoming educated, enjoying life, and being sensible and logical. 
Themes
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
Milo’s lungs burn, but the path gets flatter and wider. He can see light and safety ahead as the demons close in behind him. The Terrible Trivium and the Gelatinous Giant urge their fellows on—and the Dilemma looks ready to catch someone on his horns. The Humbug is ready to give up when lightning and thunder steal his words. Suddenly, just as the demons are ready to snatch Milo, Tock, the Humbug, Rhyme, and Reason, they suddenly stop. Up ahead are Wisdom’s armies. A trumpet sounds, and then horsemen race forward. King Azaz and the Mathemagician lead the way, Dr. Dischord, the DYNNE, and Chroma behind. Everyone Milo has met in the Lands Beyond joins the fight.
Milo is steadfastly dedicated to getting away from the demons—the very demons that kept him bored and unsatisfied at the beginning of the novel. Milo is, at this point, a changed little boy. And he’s also brought about change in the Lands Beyond, as evidenced by the fact that Azaz and the Mathemagician are now working together to help Milo defeat the demons and rescue the princesses. Thanks to Milo, everyone in the Lands Beyond—including and especially those in power—see how important it is to have reason, and not just live in absurdity.
Themes
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
The monsters of Ignorance are terrified. They turn back to the mountains and Milo greets the victorious army. Everyone cheers, and then, a man unrolls a huge scroll and announces that Rhyme and Reason will reign again in Wisdom. The scroll also designates Milo, Tock, and the Humbug as heroes, and it declares a three-day carnival holiday. Messengers spread the word throughout the kingdom as Milo and his friends join a parade. They sit in a carriage with Azaz, the Mathemagician, and the princesses. As people cheer, Rhyme tells Milo they’re cheering for him. He says he had a lot of help, and finally, Azaz and the Mathemagician tell Milo what the problem was: rescuing the princesses was impossible. But since Milo didn’t know that, he could complete the task.
When all of the friends Milo met along his journey are able to scare away the demons by banding together, it essentially makes the point that being a well-rounded person can help drive away all the things those creatures represent. Appreciating a variety of things—music, color, sound, math, and language—means that there’s so much more to appreciate in the world, and it gives a person more skills to use as needed. On another note, the Mathemagician and Azaz essentially suggest that when accomplishing a task, the most important element of a person’s success is believing they can do it.
Themes
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
Related Quotes
The parade stops between Digitopolis and Dictionopolis, and the carnival begins. There are fireworks, music, and laughter, and Alec Bings sets up a telescope. There’s a banquet every evening, followed by songs and poems praising Rhyme, Reason, and their rescuers. King Azaz and the Mathemagician vow to take armies to the Mountains of Ignorance yearly to drive out the demons.
Things seem to be back to normal in the Lands Beyond. This celebration allows everyone to remember how things used to be and look forward to things returning to normal, now that the princesses are back. And the kings’ vow to fight the demons is, essentially, a vow to continue to fight for education and knowledge.
Themes
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
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Finally, after three days, the carnival packs up and Reason says it’s time to go. Milo now remembers his home, but he’s sad to leave. Milo looks around at his new friends and asks the Humbug and Tock to come with him, but they refuse. Milo thanks his friends, and then, King Azaz claps and Milo’s car appears. Milo hops in and waves goodbye to his friends. He promises to remember the importance of words and numbers, just as Azaz and the Mathemagician start to argue again.
Things might not stay so great in the Lands Beyond, judging by the kings beginning to argue again. This suggests that arguments like this will never have a satisfying conclusion. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing—the desire to do better and prove oneself leads to progress. The problem comes, the novel has shown, when people become so specialized in their subject area that they can’t acknowledge that anything else is important.
Themes
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon