Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

by Robert O'Brien

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In Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, why did Jenner leave and what happened to him?

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Jenner is an indirect character in the novel Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, since he only appears in scenes with a flashback format. Although he doesn't have a physical presence, his influence is still strongly felt by the rats, and this sense is conveyed in many ways other than just the memories of him. Since Jenner was opposed to "the Plan," the manner in which he left may seem ironic, as, ultimately, it helped the rest of the rats accomplish their mission to leave for Thorn Valley.

Jenner had always relied on and promoted the old ways of rat culture, which were basically to hide and steal from humans. He was a practical type of character who felt that change was detrimental to their way of life. His stubbornness proved to be his greatest fault, and he paid for it with his life. He left the safety of the group to steal electricity from humans and was killed during the process, along with his followers. The ironic part is that his death alerted the rest of the rats in the colony to human threats such as extermination, and they left for the Valley and survived.

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Jenner left the burrow because he didn't want to destroy the machines, but that was really just the last straw. He and Nicodemus were counterpoints to each other. Whereas Nicodemus was a big planner, Jenner was more practical. He did not think that they could go back to being "normal rats" and did not agree with The Plan. For example, in chapter 22 he says, "I say, why start from nothing if you can start with everything? We already have a civilization."

Jenner is killed when he is electrocuted at the hardware store trying to divert electricity. Mrs. Frisby hears the humans talking about it in Chapter 25, and tells the rats. This alerts them to the exterminators, which allows them to escape to Thorn Valley.

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