The Phantom Tollbooth Chapter 13 Summary
by Norton Juster

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Chapter 13 Summary

Unfortunate Conclusions

When Milo returned to town, everyone wonders where the sound is. Because he cannot speak, Milo writes on the chalkboard that the sound is on the tip of his tongue. The crowd is elated and they push the cannon into place, loading it with gunpowder. Milo stands on his toes, leans into the mouth of the cannon, and opens his mouth. The tiny sound drops silently to the bottom. Someone lights the fuse and it begins to sputter.

Just as Milo is hoping no one gets hurt, the cannon shoots and the sound of a tiny little word—but—flies toward the wall. The sound lands lightly, and almost immediately there is a “blasting, roaring, thundering smash, followed by a crashing, shattering, bursting crash, as every stone in the fortress comes toppling to the ground and the vaults burst open, spilling the sounds of history into the wind.”

Every sound, from the beginning of time, rises from the debris in a cacophony of sound. Sneezes, coughs, laughter, cries, and hums all rise at the same time, joining old speeches, gunshots, waterfalls, and automobile horns. It is a deafening confusion for a short time, but soon the sounds disappear over the hill. Everything is normal again, and the people begin to live their normal talkative lives. Only Milo, Tock, and the Humbug remain. When the smoke clears, they see the Soundkeeper sitting on the pile of rubble.

Milo apologizes, but the Soundkeeper is sad, not mad. She knows it will take years to collect every sound again and even longer to organize them. She knows it is her fault, though, because sound cannot be improved by maintaining complete silence. What is important is learning to use each at the proper time.

As the Soundkeeper talks, they hear Dynne plodding his way over the hill, dragging a heavy sack behind him. He asks if anyone needs the sounds he collected on the other side of the hill; none of these sounds are awful enough for him. The Soundkeeper looks into the bag and is shocked to find all the sounds that had escaped from the vaults. She thanks Dynne for returning them and invites him and Dr. Dischord to dinner once her fortress is repaired. Dynne is horrified at the thought and runs away in a panic.

If Rhyme and Reason were here, the Soundkeeper is certain everything would improve. Milo tells her that is the mission he and his friends are on, and the Soundkeeper gives him a small package. The wrapped gift is full of sounds he is likely to be hungry for: train whistles from a distance, crunching toast, busy department stores, and all kinds of laughter. When Milo is far from home and lonely, the Soundkeeper knows these sounds will comfort him.

The road to Digitopolis runs along the seashore, and a beautiful island in the distance beckons them invitingly. Just as the Humbug says nothing could go wrong now, he is plucked from the car and sails immediately to the island. As Tock...

(The entire section is 796 words.)