The Phantom Tollbooth Chapter 4 Summary
by Norton Juster

Start Your Free Trial

Download The Phantom Tollbooth Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Chapter 4 Summary

Confusion in the Market Place

At the market, Milo can see crowds of people pushing, shouting, buying, selling, trading, and bargaining. Carts are pouring in from the orchards, and caravans are preparing to leave for every part of the kingdom. Above all the other noises and activity is the call of the merchants trying to sell their goods. People from every imaginable place (“and some places even beyond that”) are sorting and choosing their words.

Milo and Tock marvel at the array of words as they walk the market aisles. Though Milo has never thought much about words before, he now longs to have some. Tock, however, is more interested in finding a bone than in shopping for a word. The boy hopes that if he buys some words, he can learn how to use them. The three he chooses are quagmire, flabbergast, and upholstery, though he has no idea what they mean.

Unfortunately, Milo has only the coin he needs to get back through the tollbooth, and of course Tock has nothing but time. They walk until Milo notices a wagon that is different from every other stall. On the side, it says, “DO IT YOURSELF,” and inside are twenty-six bins, one for every letter of the alphabet. The owner of the wagon says these letters are for people who want to create their own words. Milo nibbles on an A, and it tastes just as one would expect an A to taste. Z and X are rather dry and sawdusty from lack of use; the I is icy and the C is crunchy.

Milo spits the pits from a P and says he is not very good at spelling just as an enormous bee, twice his size, settles on the wagon. Though the Spelling Bee has only peaceful intentions, Tock hides under the wagon. Though the bee looks harmless enough, Milo is not too sure about him, either. He puts the Spelling Bee to the test, and the bee can spell nearly everything. He was once an ordinary bee but decided he had to get an education to become something exceptional.

The Spelling Bee’s story is interrupted by a large, formally dressed, beetle-like insect, who...

(The entire section is 551 words.)