In the first 100 pages of the novel The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster’s use of word play and puns becomes apparently obvious. Juster uses the double meanings of words and phrases to not only create humor, but also to educate. Interestingly, more often than not, it seems that Juster’s word play results in Mino learning an important lesson. This is demonstrated in Chapter 7 in the Royal Banquet scene. For example, when Milo orders a “light meal” at the banquet, he and King Azaz’s guests are literally served a platter containing light. Next, when Milo suggests they have a “square meal” the waiters reappear carrying plates heaped sky high with squares of all colors and proportions, which are decidedly inedible. When the King comments on his disapproval of Milo’s meal choice, Milo objects, “I didn’t know that I was going to have to eat my words” (88). To this hilarious, yet thought provoking statement the King replies, “You should have made a tastier speech” (88). From these two examples of word play, we can see the lesson that Juster intends to convey: words have great power, and one must learn to use them wisely. During the banquet scene, Milo realizes the power that spoken words hold and it appears as if he intends to take greater care to choose his words more wisely in future situations.
The banquet scene from The Phantom Tollbooth seems similar to the tea party scene from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Both scenes use word play and puns both to create humor and to educate. Both Milo and Alice receive lessons in manners and in word choice during these dining experiences that seem to influence their future actions.