The tollbooth represents imagination. Though it requires a coin to get through, Milo must also use his imagination to pass through the tollbooth to the Lands Beyond—once he arrives, he observes that what started as pretend has now become real. By passing through the tollbooth, Milo discovers how to use his imagination to amuse himself and to learn things. All he has to do is open himself up to some pretend play, and he can find himself somewhere fun and fantastical.
The tollbooth, though, isn’t intended to facilitate Milo’s imagination forever—rather, it’s a tool to teach him how to use his imagination and set himself up to be imaginative without a crutch. This is why the tollbooth disappears once Milo returns to his bedroom. Having learned how to use his imagination by passing through the tollbooth the first time, Milo can create fun for himself wherever he is, with whatever he has—not just because he has a shiny new toy to play with.
The Tollbooth Quotes in The Phantom Tollbooth
“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.”
And, in the very room in which he sat, there were books that could take you anywhere, and things to invent, and make, and build, and break, and all the puzzle and excitement of everything he didn’t know—music to play, songs to sing, and worlds to imagine and then someday make real. His thoughts darted eagerly about as everything looked new—and worth trying.
“Well, I would like to make another trip,” he said, jumping to his feet; “but I really don’t know when I’ll have the time. There’s just so much to do right here.”