Grief is tough. In early July, the cement balconies and brick mortar required maintenance on the building. If you haven’t read it, pick up The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. During this brief period of time, Juster’s chapters on Dischord and Dynne came to mind…more than once.
In the Valley of Sound, Juster ties Milo’s lesson on perspective from Dischord and Dynne to the larger theme of appreciating everyday life. Just as Milo fails to appreciate the beauty of noises, the doctor and his sidekick are unable to appreciate the nicer sounds. When he reaches the Valley of Sound, Milo learns what happens when too many people take Dr. Dischord’s perspective. Just like Milo and Dischord, the residents of this valley have an unbalanced appreciation of sounds—they seem to prefer one kind to the extreme. As Milo learns, the residents of the valley became so unable to appreciate beautiful sounds that the Soundkeeper takes them away along with all the noises as well. Notice the plot similarity here with the city of Reality, whose city disappeared because they failed to appreciate it. It seems that what people take for granted in the Lands Beyond disappears.
At the Soundkeeper’s fortress, Milo learns about sounds in much the same way he learned about words in Dictionopolis. Sounds become tangible just like words at the Royal Banquet or in the word market. When he is actually able to see sounds in their “true” forms and the elaborate catalogue system that the Soundkeeper uses to keep track of them all, Milo seems to gain a greater appreciation of both noises and nice sounds. When Milo catches the word “but” in his mouth, Juster returns to his motif of punning by playing off the popular expression “on the tip of his tongue.” Once the sounds have been restored, the Soundkeeper realizes that her inability to appreciate all sounds makes her just as bad as Dischord and Dynne. Beauty, as we learned in the last section, is a matter of perspective. The Sound keeper realizes the sense of this, referring to Rhyme and Reason, symbols of wisdom, and declares that she will try to use each sound at the right time.