Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
by Robert C. O'Brien
Mrs. Plain Jane
Mrs. Frisby gives a whole new meaning to the word "mousey." Usually, calling someone mousey means that they are quiet, boring, and unremarkable. Early on in the book, we get the impression that, though she is an awesome mom, she is just sort of average, scurrying around looking for snacks and handling the home front.
But by the end of the novel, mousey might just have to become a new synonym for awesome. Not only is Mrs. Frisby a great mom who would do anything for her family, but also she is also brave enough to risk her life to save total strangers. How mousey is that?
Plain Jane no More
Even though Mrs. Frisby's story plays second fiddle to the more exciting story about the rats, her tale—pardon the pun— is interesting because it's one of quiet transformation. She flies under the radar, but goes from ho-hum to hero of the hour in spectacular fashion.
At the beginning of the novel, Mrs. Frisby is just your average mouse-on-the-street. We see her scurrying around looking for corn, hiding from cats, talking to her kids—you know, standard mouse shenanigans. And then she meets Jeremy. Well, not only meets Jeremy, but sticks her tiny neck out to save this crow whom she has never met before.
This early incident tells us right quick that Mrs. Frisby has the capacity to be a total rock star of a mouse. Remember how scared she is when she has to go into the owl's house and he is "peering at her with his great yellow eyes" (8.49)? Shiver! She doesn't stop there, of course, going on to risk death at the paws of Dragon, the neighborhood bully and becoming a huge ally to the rats. Sure, they've promised to help her move her house, but the lengths she's willing to go to to help repay the debt show that she'll go the extra mile for a friend—no matter how new.
The focus on the genetically engineered super-rats could overshadow Mrs. Frisby's quiet acts of selfless bravery, but somehow they don't. In fact, her ability to do so much without the benefits of NIMH superpowers makes her seem all the more impressive. It's easy to see why her name comes first in the title.Mrs. Frisby's Timeline