The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth

by

Norton Juster

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The Phantom Tollbooth: Chapter 20. Good-by and Hello Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As Milo drives, he realizes he’s been gone for weeks. He hopes no one is worried. Finally, the tollbooth comes into view. Milo drops in his coin and suddenly finds himself sitting in his bedroom—and it’s only six in the evening. He’s only been gone an hour, and Milo had no idea he could get so much done in a short time. He’s exhausted, so he goes to bed right after dinner.
This is the first time that Milo has even acknowledged that he has people at home who care about him. His time away has seemingly taught him to care more about those people. He’s also learned that by using his imagination, he can travel anywhere he likes—and still be home for dinner. In addition, he’s learned the value of using his time efficiently and productively rather than wasting it.
Themes
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
After school the next day, Milo plans to go back to the Lands Beyond—but when he gets home, the tollbooth is gone. Instead, there’s an envelope addressed, “FOR MILO, WHO NOW KNOWS THE WAY.” Inside, the note reads that hopefully Milo was satisfied with his trip, but that they had to collect the tollbooth and send it to another boy or girl. If he wants to see other lands on the map, he should be able to figure out how to get there himself. The signature is unreadable.
Milo is so excited to go back through the tollbooth because it was such a novel and eye-opening experience for him. At this point, he believes that using the tollbooth is the only way to access the Lands Beyond (and indeed, his imagination). But the note explaining the tollbooth’s absence suggests that Milo doesn’t actually need the tollbooth—he can use his imagination, without a crutch, and go anywhere he likes.
Themes
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
Sad, Milo curls up in his armchair. He thinks of Tock and the Humbug, Rhyme and Reason, and his other friends. But though he’s sad, he also notices how pretty the sky and trees are. He can take walks, find caterpillars, and smell each day. In his room there are books to read, things to build and invent, and songs to sing. Eagerly, Milo rushes around his room, ready to try something new. He decides he doesn’t have time to make another trip with so much to do here.
After his journey through the Lands Beyond, Milo can now appreciate the world around him. And most important for him, since he used to be chronically bored, is that he now realizes he can amuse himself anywhere. Milo has learned how to use his time well and keep himself engaged—and this will allow him to continue learning, wherever he goes and whatever he does.
Themes
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
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