Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
How we cite our quotes:
Who am I, then? Thought Mrs. Frisby. I suppose that will have to come from Nicodemus as well. (11.68)
Good question! Mrs. Frisby definitely has a tendency to underestimate herself though. She'll learn who she is by learning what she is capable of—not by asking Nicodemus.
"The real point is this: we don't know where to go because we don't know what we are. Do you want to go back to living in a sewer-pipe? And eating other people's garbage? Because that's what rats do. But the fact is, we aren't rats anymore." (18.56)
If it weren't for the tail, Nicodemus could don a beret and a turtleneck and fit right into a discussion of existentialism in a smoky Paris café. Knowing what we are—that's one of the biggest questions anyone will ever have to face. Unfortunately, at this point in the book, all the rats know is what they are not. What they are? That's going to take all of their new brainpower to figure out.
"Where does a group of civilized rats fit in?" (18.56)
Does he want the long answer of the short answer? The short answer is nowhere. The long answer is that a group of civilized rats has to develop their own civilization, because neither human nor rat civilization is quite ready for them. We have the sense that even as Nicodemus asks the question, he already knows the answer.