The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth

by

Norton Juster

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Faintly Macabre Character Analysis

Faintly Macabre—or Aunt Faintly to Milo—is imprisoned in the dungeons of Dictionopolis. Though Milo first believes she’s a witch, Faintly Macabre corrects him that she’s actually a Which. She was once the Official Which, which means that she was responsible for choosing which words should be said or written and which shouldn’t. But as she tells her story, she explains that she grew miserly and began to hoard words until nobody in Dictionopolis could say anything and business had totally stagnated. At this point, she was put in prison—and she plans to stay there until the princesses Rhyme and Reason are freed. Faintly Macabre also tells Milo the princesses’ story and inspires him to go rescue them.

Faintly Macabre Quotes in The Phantom Tollbooth

The The Phantom Tollbooth quotes below are all either spoken by Faintly Macabre or refer to Faintly Macabre. 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 4. Confusion in the Market Place Quotes

Milo had never thought much about words before, but these looked so good that he longed to have some.

“Look, Tock,” he cried, “aren’t they wonderful?”

“They’re fine, if you have something to say,” replied Tock in a tired voice, for he was much more interested in finding a bone than in shopping for new words.

Related Characters: Milo (speaker), Tock (speaker), Faintly Macabre
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5. Short Shrift Quotes

“That was all many years ago,” she continued; “but they never appointed a new Which, and that explains why today people use as many words as they can and think themselves very wise for doing so. For always remember that while it is wrong to use too few, it is often far worse to use too many.”

Related Characters: Faintly Macabre (speaker), Milo, Tock, King Azaz the Unabridged
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6. Faintly Macabre’s Story Quotes

“‘Words and numbers are of equal value for, in the cloak of knowledge, one is warp and the other woof. It is no more important to count the sands than it is to name the stars. Therefore, let both kingdoms live in peace.’”

“Everyone was pleased with the verdict. Everyone, that is, but the brothers, who were beside themselves with anger.

“‘What good are these girls if they cannot settle an argument in someone’s favor?’ they growled, since both were more interested in their own advantage than in the truth.”

Related Characters: Faintly Macabre (speaker), Princess of Pure Reason (speaker), Princess of Sweet Rhyme (speaker), King Azaz the Unabridged (speaker), The Mathemagician (speaker), Milo, Tock
Related Symbols: The Castle in the Air
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Phantom Tollbooth PDF

Faintly Macabre Character Timeline in The Phantom Tollbooth

The timeline below shows where the character Faintly Macabre appears in The Phantom Tollbooth. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5. Short Shrift
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...fear, but the lady laughs because she’s a Which, not a witch. Her name is Faintly Macabre , and she’s the not-so-wicked Which. (full context)
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
Confused, Milo asks what a Which is. Faintly Macabre explains that she’s the king’s great-aunt. She used to get to choose words for all... (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
Faintly Macabre returns to her knitting and says she’s been down here ever since. People have either... (full context)
Chapter 6. Faintly Macabre’s Story
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Faintly Macabre begins her story. Once upon a time, she says, this land was a frightening wilderness.... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Faintly Macabre says that soon, settlers came to the new land and the city grew progressively larger.... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
...cities flourished and the demons had to retreat—but the demons still haven’t totally given up. Faintly Macabre explains that the brothers were glad to part ways, as they’re suspicious and jealous. Each... (full context)
Knowledge, Learning, and the Purpose of Education Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
Azaz and the Mathemagician, Faintly Macabre says, would often call on Rhyme and Reason to settle their disputes. But as the... (full context)
Language, Wordplay, Fun, and Logic Theme Icon
Absurdity vs. Reason Theme Icon
Milo suggests they rescue the princesses, but Faintly Macabre explains that the Castle in the Air is far away and guarded by evil demons.... (full context)