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Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH


by Robert C. O'Brien

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH Chapter 17 Summary

A Lesson in Reading

  • Justin waits and observes, knowing that he needs to know more before he makes an escape.
  • So he studies the windows and the air ducts, and pays super close attention to, well, everything.
  • The rats learn a few things about the changes they are going through because of the injections: they are smarter than any rat ever and they were stronger and healthier as well.
  • The rats cannot notice these changes, themselves, but they can understand the scientists' conversations about them. 
  • At this point, the scientists begin to pair the shape recognition activities with sounds. Things are getting even more intense. This is like the Harvard of rat schools. 
  • Nicodemus explains how Julie would work with him, by showing him a shape and then repeating a sound. In this way, the rats slowly learn how to read.
  • Crazy, right?
  • The rats don't know what reading is, but they know that they are learning something important. 
  • It's Jenner who finally understands why reading will help the rats: he reads a sign.
  • Nicodemus explains that the first sign that he read himself said "RATS MAY NOT BE REMOVED FROM LABORATORY." We bet that was a bit of a balloon-popper.
  • One night, Justin announces that he is going to get out of his cage and explore, because he has figured out how to open his cage from the outside by reading a diagram.
  • Knowing how to read, it turns out, helps them take the first step towards escape. 
  • Nicodemus asks if he can come exploring with Justin, but they decide that they should be cautious and just have one rat out at a time. They don't want their prison guards to crack down.
  • They both realize that they are getting closer to escape.

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