The Phantom Tollbooth | Study Guide

Norton Juster

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Course Hero. "The Phantom Tollbooth Study Guide." January 18, 2018. Accessed September 24, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Phantom-Tollbooth/.

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Course Hero, "The Phantom Tollbooth Study Guide," January 18, 2018, accessed September 24, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Phantom-Tollbooth/.

The Phantom Tollbooth | Chapter 9 : It's All in How You Look at Things | Summary

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Summary

Milo, Tock, and the Humbug begin their road trip through a thick forest. They are admiring the view when a boy appears, standing three feet above the ground. He explains that everyone in his family is born in the air, and their bodies grow down toward the ground. He is surprised to learn that Milo starts out on the ground and grows upward.

The boy, Alec Bings, explains that he can see through things, but he cannot see anything that happens right in front of him. His father "sees to things," his mother "looks after things," his brother "sees beyond things," his uncle "sees the other side of every question," and his sister "sees under things." Alec tells Milo that he can rise up if he tries "to look at things as an adult does." Milo concentrates and floats up into the air alongside Alec. A minute later he falls to the ground.

Alec explains that everyone has a point of view. He points to a bucket of water and says an ant sees it as an ocean. An elephant sees it as a drink, and a fish thinks it's his home. Alec mentions that sometimes a person's feet grow toward the sky, and they end up walking among the stars.

Analysis

Turning familiar ideas around is one of the many ways the author achieves humor and makes key points. Alec and his family start out up in the air and grow downward. The image of the family suspended in air is quite amusing. The author's playful use of language also creates humor. Alec can see through things, his father sees to things, his mother looks after things, his brother sees beyond things, and his sister sees under things—all are word plays on common expressions using the word "things" (and, it should be noted, the character's last name Bings makes use of an auditory play on the word).

The author's analysis of point of view is interesting. Different people or animals can have a different perspective on the same thing—so a bucket of water is like an immense ocean to something small like an ant. This suggests the importance of looking at things from the perspective of others. The author is telegraphing this idea of seeing things from the perspective of others in the title of this chapter: It's All in How You Look at Things.

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