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

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial