The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth

by

Norton Juster

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Alec Bings is a little boy Milo, Tock, and the Humbug meet in the Forest of Sight. He sees through things and sees things how they truly are, which provides some humor as Alec can’t see what’s right in front of him (like trees as he’s running through the forest). In his family, babies are born in the air and then grow down until their feet touch the ground—so Alec hovers about three feet above the ground. This, he explains, is a good thing because people in his family never have to change their perspective as they grow; his perspective as an adult will be the exact same as it was when he was a child. Alec encourages Milo to think about perspective in a variety of ways, from encouraging him to try out seeing the world from an adult’s perspective to showing him around the cities of Illusion and Reality. Alec also introduces Milo to Chroma. When they part, Alec gives Milo a gift of a telescope, which will allow Milo to see things as they truly are. Milo later uses this gift to deduce that one of the frightening demons that threatens him in the Mountains of Ignorance is actually small, cute, and nonthreatening.

Alec Bings Quotes in The Phantom Tollbooth

The The Phantom Tollbooth quotes below are all either spoken by Alec Bings or refer to Alec Bings. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bullseye Books edition of The Phantom Tollbooth published in 1988.
Chapter 9. It’s All in How You Look at Things Quotes

“Oh no,” said Milo seriously. “In my family we all start on the ground and grow up, and we never know how far until we actually get there.”

“What a silly system.” The boy laughed. “Then your head keeps changing its height and you always see things in a different way? Why, when you’re fifteen things won’t look at all the way they did when you were ten, and at twenty everything will change again.”

“I suppose so,” said Milo, for he had never really thought about the matter.

Related Characters: Milo (speaker), Alec Bings (speaker)
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10. A Colorful Symphony Quotes

“No one paid any attention to how things looked, and as they moved faster and faster everything grew uglier and dirtier, and as everything grew uglier and dirtier they moved faster and faster, and at last a very strange thing began to happen. Because nobody cared, the city slowly began to disappear. Day by day the buildings grew fainter and fainter, and the streets faded away, until at last it was entirely invisible. There was nothing to see at all.”

Related Characters: Alec Bings (speaker), Milo, Tock, The Humbug
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:

“You see what a dull place the world would be without color?” he said, bowing until his chin almost touched the ground. “But what a pleasure to lead my violins in a serenade of spring green or hear my trumpets blare out the blue sea and then watch the oboes tint it all in warm yellow sunshine. And rainbows are best of all—and blazing neon signs, and taxicabs with stripes, and the soft, muted tones of a foggy day. We play them all.”

Related Characters: Chroma (speaker), Milo, Tock, The Humbug, Alec Bings
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11. Dischord and Dynne Quotes

“Carry this with you on your journey,” he said softly, “for there is much worth noticing that often escapes the eye. Through it you can see everything from the tender moss in a sidewalk crack to the glow of the farthest star—and, most important of all, you can see things as they really are, not just as they seem to be. It’s my gift to you.”

Related Characters: Alec Bings (speaker), Milo
Related Symbols: Gifts, The Tollbooth
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17. Unwelcoming Committee Quotes

“I’m the demon of insincerity,” he sobbed. I don’t mean what I say, I don’t mean what I do, and I don’t mean what I am. Most people who believe what I tell them go the wrong way, and stay there, but you and your awful telescope have spoiled everything. I’m going home.” And, crying hysterically, he stamped off in a huff.

“It certainly pays to have a good look at things,” observed Milo as he wrapped up the telescope with great care.

Related Symbols: Gifts
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Phantom Tollbooth LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Phantom Tollbooth PDF

Alec Bings Character Timeline in The Phantom Tollbooth

The timeline below shows where the character Alec Bings appears in The Phantom Tollbooth. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9. It’s All in How You Look at Things
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
...right, it's usually an accident. Tock and Milo are impressed. The boy introduces himself as Alec Bings. He sees through things, which means that he can see what’s inside, around, or... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Milo asks if he could possibly see something from up high. Alec says he can—if Milo tries to look at the world as adults do. Milo tries... (full context)
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
Milo asks if everyone here grows down like Alec. Alec says that occasionally, someone’s feet start to grow toward the sky. They try to... (full context)
Chapter 10. A Colorful Symphony
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
As Milo, Tock, and the Humbug follow Alec through the forest, the light becomes increasingly beautiful. Alec struggles to run, as he can’t... (full context)
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
Milo and Tock return to Alec, who leads them to a big clearing. He explains that people here live in a... (full context)
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
Alec tells Milo that they’re right in the middle of Reality’s Main Street. Tock and the... (full context)
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
Alec says that nobody cared enough to do anything about the missing city. Telling residents the... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
At this, Alec rushes ahead so they can catch the evening concert. He leads them through Reality to... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Boredom, Beauty, and Modern Life Theme Icon
...sleep and asks Milo to wake him up at 5:23 for the sunrise. Tock and Alec both fall asleep, and Milo follows suit. (full context)
Chapter 11. Dischord and Dynne
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Tock’s alarm goes off and he says they need to go. Alec accompanies the party back through the Forest of Sight, sad to see his new friends... (full context)
Chapter 19. The Return of Rhyme and Reason
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...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... (full context)