The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

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Chapter 9 Summary

It’s All in How You Look at Things

As Dictionopolis disappears behind them, all the strange and unknown lands between the kingdom of words and the kingdom of numbers stretch before them. The Humbug is “happily resigned to the trip,” and soon they arrive at the edge of a dense forest. A large road sign says, “This Is the Scenic Route: Straight Ahead to Point of View.” The travelers see nothing but more trees, and the forest grows denser as they continue until they can no longer see the sky above them.

The forest ends abruptly and the road ends on a broad promontory; below them they can see the land they had just traveled. Milo exclaims that it is a beautiful sight, and a strange voice says that it is all in the way one looks at things. When the boy turns around, he sees a pair of polished brown shoes suspended three feet off the ground; wearing the shoes is a young boy about Milo’s age.

The boy continues, saying that if one prefers the desert, for example, this would not be such a beautiful sight. The Humbug quickly agrees; he does not like to contradict anyone whose feet are that far off the ground. Milo asks how the boy manages to stand so far off the ground. The boy is surprised that a boy as young as Milo is standing on the ground.

In the boy’s family, everyone is born in the air, so his head is at the exact height it will be when he is an adult. As they grow, each person’s feet get closer to the ground until they are all grown down. He says a few of them never have their feet touch the ground, of course, but that is probably true of someone in every family. Milo explains that the opposite is true in his family, and none of them ever knows how far they will grow up until they actually get there. It is a confusing concept for the floating boy, for it means that perspectives will change as people grow up. Milo has never thought of it before, but he agrees that this is what happens.

The floating boy and his family always see things from the same angle, and it is much less troublesome. A young child can never hurt himself by falling down or get in trouble for leaving scuff marks on the floor if he floats above the ground. Tock thinks this makes sense and wonders how the dogs in this family like this way of doing things.

When the boy tells Milo exactly what he ate for breakfast, knows that Tock is always worried about people wasting time, and states that the Humbug is rarely right about anything, the...

(The entire section is 699 words.)