In The Phantom Tollbooth, what does Milo discover when King Azaz calls for his guests to each give a speech?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Because of the absurdist nature of the worlds that Milo visits in The Phantom Tollbooth, he is unprepared for the literal nature of Dictionopolis, ruled by King Azaz. At a banquet, King Azaz calls for his guests to give speeches, and Milo, thinking that this is a formal affair, speaks:

"Your Majesty, ladies and gentlemen," started Milo timidly, "I would like to take this opportunity to sat that in all the--"
(Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth, Google Books)

King Azaz cuts him off and allows the other guests to speak. Each pronounces a list of foods, after which the waiters deliver each guest their own words, which presumably taste like the foods they describe. Milo protests:

"I didn't know that I was going to have to eat my own words," objected Milo.
"Of course, of course, everyone here does," the king grunted. "You should have made a tastier speech."
(Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth, Google Books)

The following dialogue is a flurry of puns, offering "somersault" to improve the flavor and advice to wait for "your just desserts." Since the kingdom of Dictionopolis is a literal world, everything people say has meaning, and that meaning is translated into reality. Milo's more subjective view does not yet understand that everything has a reaction, and every word has real meaning that can affect others, positively or negatively.


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