Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
by Robert C. O'Brien
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Okay, Shmoopers: raise your hand if you like having a cell phone, or a computer, or being able to ride in cars or take a plane to visit someplace warm and awesome. Just as we thought—all hands are raised. Now, raise your hand if even though you like technology, you can think of some flaws? (Say, for example, cars polluting the environment, or that terrible bully on Facebook posting snarky comments about your perfectly lovely best friend.) Again, all hands raised, just as we expected.
Congratulations! You and our brainiac rats feel similarly about issues of science and technology: it's pretty cool, but sometimes there are downsides, too. So it's no surprise then that technology is a symbol of both good and evil in Rats.
First, the Good
- Technology makes the rats geniuses. How great is that?
- The rats use electricity to make their lives better. Ditto.
- The rats' ability to use technology allows them to help other characters, like the Frisbys. Double-ditto.
Now the Bad
- Technology makes the rats geniuses, but it also causes them a lot of emotional pain, like when they find out that the rest of the world thinks they're a bunch of no-good thieves.
- In the name of science and progress, Dr. Schultz and his cronies test on animals against their will. So not cool.
- Technology kills animals: Jenner and his band are killed when they try to meddle with human technology. The farm plows kill animals all the time. Major bummer.
- Technology makes the rats even more un-ratlike. It also makes them more dependent on humans, who hate them.
Now the Ugly
Basically, when technology appears in Rats, it should always be taken with a grain of salt (and a grain of salt is bigger to a rat than it is to you): the electricity that helps you create an elevator could kill your best friends tomorrow, leaving them "all bunched together" around a motor (24.32). How's that for deep?