The Phantom Tollbooth Chapter 2 Summary
by Norton Juster

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Chapter 2 Summary

Beyond Expectations

Milo is driving on an unfamiliar country highway; he looks behind him and sees no sign of the tollbooth or his bedroom. Make-believe has become real. It is a clear, sunny day and everything is brighter than he has ever seen before. He sees a sign, welcoming him to Expectations, painted on a small house by the side of the road. The sign also offers cheerfully delivered predictions, advice, and information. If he is interested, he should park his car and blow his horn. Milo is interested.

A little man in a large coat comes rushing from the house and welcomes Milo to Expectations. He says everything twice and introduces himself as the Whether Man. Milo asks if this is the road to Dictionopolis, and the man says any road that goes to Dictionopolis must be the right road because “there are no wrong roads to anywhere.” The Whether Man wonders if it is going to rain.

The man explains that Expectations is the place all people must go before they get to where they are going. While it is true that some people never go beyond Expectations, the Whether Man’s job is to hurry them along their journey. Doubting the man’s sanity, Milo thinks he can find his own way. The repeating man is glad to hear that and, if Milo happens to find the Whether Man’s way, the man would like to have it back, as it was lost long ago. The Whether Man does not like to make up his mind about anything, and he believes that if he expects everything, the unexpected never happens.

Milo drives away just as a raincloud settles directly over the strange man; Milo is glad to be back on the road, realizing that staying in Expectations for very long would get him nowhere. Milo daydreams as he drives; that is why, when he reaches a fork in the road and the sign points to the left, he turns right. Suddenly the sky turns gray and the entire countryside has lost its color.

The road is a series of endless curves and the car, which has been going quite fast, now goes very slowly and finally comes to a complete stop. No matter how he tries, the car will not budge. He wonders aloud where he is, and a faraway voice wails that he is in the Doldrums. Milo looks around but sees no one; he loudly asks what the Doldrums are, and the answer comes to him from a tiny creature, which is sitting on his right shoulder. The Doldrums, says the creature, is where “nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes.”

The creature introduces Milo to all his friends, the Lethargarians, and Milo now sees them everywhere. Milo tells them he thinks he is lost, and one of the creatures says it is against the law to use the word think . Just as the Lethargarians are...

(The entire section is 744 words.)