Monday, October 09, 2006

Phantom Tollbooth Discussion

On friday night we had a wonderful discussion on the Phantom Tollbooth with, Gilbert Girl, Margaret, Rose, Mari, Cathy, their mom, D'Maire, my mom and Gus.
We started off with "the point of view" in which Milo, Tock and the Humbug become acquanted with Alec Bings. We discussed the way in which Alec Bings always looks at the future and not the present. And so he is always running into trees. We also talked about how much Milo's point of view differs from that of Alec Bings and which of them serves that person better. We decided that Milo's is probably more practical if nothing else, but that even aside from that it does serve him better. This led into the, as we named him, "the most ordinary man in the world". He is the one who pretends to be the giant, the midget, the thin man and the fat man. And after asking him the same question at all of his four doors, Milo says" I think you're all the same man" and the man explains:

... to tall men I'm a midget, and to short men I'm a giant;
to the skinny ones I'm a fat man and to the fat ones I'm a thin man. That
way I can hold four jobs at once. As you can see, though, I'm neither tall nor
short nor fat nor thin. In fact, I'm quite ordinary, but since there are so many
ordinary men that no one asks their opinion about anything.

So the forest of sight kept us busy for quite a while since we also discussed, if only briefly, Reality, Illusions and the 'Colorful Symphony'. Margaret explained why she liked the colorful symphony and what she said was really interesting but I can't remember what her remarks were, maybe she can help me?

So next stop was Dictionopolis (we weren't going in very good order) we talked about the banquet, the half- baked- idea pastries made an interesting topic, we talked about what they were and how we liked that they got sick after eating them. Then somebody asked why the two princesses were so important, then someone else said she was wondering why Princess Rhyme was so important, she could understand why Princess Reason was important but Princess Rhyme didn't make as much sense. So that made a VERY interesting topic as you may imagine. GilbertGirl and I, the most talkitive of our group, found it 'necessary' to cover each other's mouths so that the other girls would have to talk too (it was REALLY funny). And Rose, asked her neighbor "Do you understand Reason at all?" of course she ment Princess Reason but the way it came out didn't work so well. That sent us all into fits of laughter.

But it was interesting too. GilbertGirl pointed out that in a poem, rhyme is what keeps it all together (if you know what I mean) and so that was an important part to play. And I said that in the book they describe Rhyme as a more light-hearted princess so that might be an important part to play to keep reason from being to dull. It seems to me that we got into more than that but I can't remember, does anyone else? If so please post or comment.

Next stop, The Island of Conclusions. We didn't talk a whole lot about this but mainly the trip back, how it is possible to 'swim all day in the sea of knowledge and still come out completely dry'. Which many people had not noticed the significance of. You see when you are exposed to knowledge you can either learn it and get wet or be completely oblivious to it and stay completely dry, and that is what the Humbug, not surprisingly, experienced.

When it came to our notice that we were running short on time, we decided that we had to get to the demons. But I can't remember much of that, can someone else fill me in please?

Then we ended with our favorite parts. Not all of us (me included) had a single favorite part but here some people did and they included:

This was one that my mom (and I) found interesting (Describing the package Milo
found in his room) For while it was not quite square it was definitly not round, and for it's size it was larger than almost any other big package of smaller dimensions he'd ever seen.

Mari's favorite was: You must never feel badly for making mistakes, as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more from being wrong for the right reason then for being right for the wrong reasons.

So that concluded our discussion but I would gladly welcome any more thoughts on this book. Speaking of discussions, I am planning to do the next TMWWT discussion but I'm not having any bright ideas, does anyone else have suggestions?


Dr. Thursday said...

Wow, in that house with the four doors, you found one of the deeply Chestertonian parts! Observe this:

Suppose we heard an unknown man spoken of by many men. Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too fair. One explanation (as has been already admitted) would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape. Outrageously tall men might feel him to be short. Very short men might feel him to be tall. Old bucks who are growing stout might consider him insufficiently filled out; old beaux who were growing thin might feel that he expanded beyond the narrow lines of elegance. Perhaps Swedes (who have pale hair like tow)called him a dark man, while negroes considered him distinctly blonde. Perhaps (in short) this extraordinary thing is really the ordinary thing; at least the normal thing, the centre.
[GKC, Orthodoxy CW1:294-5]

And your discussion of the importance of "Rhyme and Reason" might be assisted if you look at them as the undivided whole which they preserve - the whole which their brothers sadly lost. But this would take too long to examine here - and you need to consider this together with something from GKC's The Everlasting Man, where he also deals with the very same division, and its restoration (see near the end of the chapter called "The Escape From Paganism"; it's on CW2:380]

What an excellent discussion! Perhaps the ChesterTeens might prepare a paper for a future ChesterCon...

gilbertgirl said...

I don't know if I voiced this during the discussion, but another way I thought about it was Rhyme being the abstracts. Reason enforced and explained the laws, but Rhyme applied the principles, morals, and other erudite concepts; sort of handling the more delicate and fine points of theology.