The Phantom Tollbooth | Study Guide

Norton Juster

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The Phantom Tollbooth | Chapter 11 : Dischord and DYNNE | Summary



Instead of waking up Chroma when it is time for the sunrise, Milo replaces him, thinking that he'd like to give conducting a try. At his cue, all the musicians start to play. The colors around them brighten, the sky turns magenta, green snow starts to fall, the flowers turn black, and even Tock changes to ultramarine. Milo is frantic, and "nothing was the color it should [be]." The musicians play faster and faster, and the sun keeps rising and setting. In minutes, "a whole week [has] gone by." Tired, Milo's arms drop and everything stops.

Chroma wakes up and takes over conducting. He never finds out about the lost week. Tock says it is time to go, and Alec says goodbye, reminding Milo to keep his eyes open and start noticing his surroundings because "there's a lot to see everywhere." Alec gives Milo a telescope so that he "can see things as they really are."

Milo continues his road trip through the countryside and down into a valley. They see a red carnival wagon with the name "Kakofonous A. Dischord, Doctor of Dissonance" painted on its side. Milo taps on the wagon, and a crashing sound is heard inside. The door flies open, and a hoarse voice welcomes them in. The wagon is filled with clutter, and Dr. Dischord is busy mixing something. He is wearing a white coat, a mirror is attached to his forehead, and his ears are as large as his head. Every time he speaks, sounds of explosions and crashes are heard. He tells them that his middle initial "A" stands for "as loud as possible," and he specializes in noises of all kinds. The bottles on the shelves are filled with various sounds, such as cries, bangs, crashes, squeaks, and miscellaneous uproars. The doctor explains that loud sounds are very popular, especially in large cities. And unpleasant sounds can drown out beautiful sounds.

Dr. Dischord introduces his assistant, the DYNNE, who is preceded by rumbling, loud sounds that erupt into a deafening roar. The DYNNE creates and dispenses noise, and his job is to collect unpleasant noises.


One of the main lessons Milo learns is to keep his eyes open and notice things around him. This contrasts with his inattentiveness at the beginning of the novel, when he doesn't notice anything and finds everything boring.

Alec gives Milo a gift of a telescope. As with the King's gift of words, Alec's gift—a tool to see the world more clearly—symbolizes the power of knowledge and understanding.

As usual, Juster uses names to create a humorous effect. A cacophony describes discordant sounds. The words discord and dissonance mean a lack of harmony, or harsh, unpleasant sounds. And the word din means noise. So the doctor's name Kakofonous (cacophonous) Dischord (discord) are intentional misspellings of actual sound words; the name itself is somewhat harsh to the ear.

Noise pollution and constant, loud sounds are common in cities and industrialized areas, and in The Phantom Tollbooth, cities are portrayed as being filled with loud, unpleasant sounds. This satirical view of city life is embodied in the character of the DYNNE (din).

The author adds a bit of humor when Humbug says, "No noise is good noise." This is a play on the expression "No news is good news." The lack of noise would be a good thing.

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