The Phantom Tollbooth Chapter 1 Summary
by Norton Juster

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Chapter 1 Summary


A boy named Milo does not know what to do with himself, but only sometimes. He constantly wishes he were somewhere else doing something else; but when he is somewhere else doing something else, he is not content. Nothing important interests him and he feels as if everything is a waste of time. Walking home from school one day, Milo says that nothing he is studying in school has value. Since no one tells him anything different, Milo thinks “the process of seeking knowledge is the greatest waste of time of all.”

Despite the fact that he does not feel that any place he goes is worth going, he is always in a hurry to get there. Today he wonders why such a large world feels so small and empty sometimes. It contains nothing worth seeing and there is nothing he wants to do. He rushes home to his eighth-floor apartment and “flops dejectedly in to a chair.” Nothing he owns is interesting to him: books, tools, toys, games, bats, or balls. Suddenly he spies something he has never seen before, sitting next to the phonograph. It is a package, neither square nor round, neither large nor small; it has a blue envelope on the side that reads, “To Milo, who has plenty of time.”

Milo is both puzzled and excited. Though he probably will not like the gift, he certainly cannot give it back. To be polite, he opens the envelope and a letter explains that the gift is a “Genuine Turnpike Tollbooth” designed for those who have “never traveled to lands beyond.” The package contains a tollbooth, which must be assembled according to the directions; three precautionary signs; one map of natural and man-made elements; and one book of rules and traffic regulations, which must be followed precisely. At the bottom is a guarantee that if he is not completely satisfied (which is not guaranteed), his wasted time will be refunded.

Soon Milo unpacks the tollbooth and sets it on a stand. He inserts the windows, attaches the roof, and connects the...

(The entire section is 531 words.)