The Maze Runner

Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11 to 15

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Ch 11

Ben stands, looking a little better than he did the day before. His face expresses a profound madness. Thomas notices that Ben has a knife in his hand.

“Ben!”, a voice calls out.

Alby has appeared at the edge of the graveyard. He wields a bow and arrow pointed right at Ben. Ben tells Alby that Thomas is the one he should shoot, that he is evil. Ben says that he has seen Thomas. Thomas is struck by these words. It is the second time someone has claimed to have seen him before.

Alby tries to reason with Ben and tells him he’s going to count to three and begins counting. Before he can finish Ben leaps out toward Thomas, brandishing his knife. Alby fires and Ben falls, the arrow buried in Ben’s cheek. Thomas is sickened at the sight of it. Did Ben just die because of him?

Thomas follows Alby out of the woods and out into the Courtyard. He cannot take this any longer. He falls to his knees and throws up. Every time he closes his eyes he can only see Ben’s face. He has great difficulty sleeping that night.

The next day Chuck has to drag Thomas out of his sleeping bag and get him dressed and ready to work. He will start as a Slicer in the Blood House. Newt introduces Thomas to Winston, the Keeper of the Blood House. Winston shows Thomas the layout of the Blood House and where the different animal pens are located. A black lab named Bark seems to take to Thomas quickly and begins following him around during the tour.

Thomas begins working with the animals and watches Winston slaughter a hog before removing its various parts for food preparation. Thomas decides he does not want to work in the Blood House forever, nor will he ever eat pork again.

Winston lets Thomas go early, which is fine with Thomas. Winston gives him the creeps. He ventures outside near the Box when he sees a Runner entering the Glade through the West Door. The Runner is gasping for his breath, his face red, his body covered in sweat. He is an Asian boy, a bit older than Thomas, perhaps, with strong looking arms. He seems to have returned to the Glade early. Thomas is eager to ask him questions but before he can the boy collapses to the ground.

Ch 12

Thomas is frozen. He considers for a moment that perhaps the boy has been stung. No, he needs help, he finally decides. He calls out for help. He kneels down and asks the boy if he is okay. “Who the klunk are you?”, asks the boy.

Thomas explains that he is new in the Glade, realizing that the Runners are gone during the day and may not be privy to everything that happens. The boy recalls that both Thomas and the girl are new in the Glade.

Alby appears, demanding to know what has happened. The boy, Minho, demands water. Alby does not move, reiterating his need to know. Minho accosts Alby in a manner that Thomas has not seen anyone ever do. Alby turns and runs off, presumably to fetch water. Thomas asks how it is that Minho can speak to Alby like that. Isn’t Alby the leader? Minho dismisses the notion, calling Thomas a Greenie. Thomas is offended. He asks Minho who the leader is, if Alby isn’t. Minho tells Thomas to shut up. Thomas is a bit scared of Minho but decides he can’t let this guy or anyone else treat him like this. He tells Minho that he’s sure that was how Minho conducted himself when he was a Greenie.

Minho studies Thomas carefully. Thomas goes to stand but Minho grabs his arm and tells him that he’s just messing with his head. He begins to say that Thomas will do the same with another Newbie one day then realizes that there won’t be anymore Newbies. He asks Thomas if the girl is hot. Thomas remembers her vividly. “Yeah, I guess she’s hot.”

Thomas asks if Minho found anything in the Maze. Minho tells Thomas that on any other day that would be the dumbest thing to ask a Runner, but not today. Thomas asks why, but Minho says to wait until Alby returns. Thomas demures but asks Minho to make sure that Alby lets him hear the news too. Minho agrees. Thomas begins to warm to him quickly.

Alby returns with water, which Minho downs thirstily. He tells Alby and Thomas that he found a dead one. “A dead what?”, inquires Alby.

“A dead Griever.”

Ch 13

Thomas wonders if this has ever happened before. Alby’s reluctance to believe Minho’s story makes Thomas believe that it probably has never happened before. Alby asks Minho why he didn’t bring the Griever back with him. Minho tells Alby that they weigh quite a bit and that he wouldn’t touch one even if meant a free ticket out of the Glade.

Alby begins asking detailed questions about the Griever: whether its skin was moist, whether the metal spikes were in or out on its body. Thomas’s mind reels from these images. Minho tells Alby that he has to see it for himself. “It’s...weird”, he says.

Alby decides that it will have to wait until tomorrow. Minho departs, in search of food and rest. He looks like he has earned it.

Alby turns to Thomas and again asks if there’s anything he hasn’t told him. Thomas asks why Alby hates him so much. Alby’s face betrays anger and confusion. He berates Thomas, telling him this isn’t personal and has nothing to do with hate or love. It’s about survival. “Drop your sissy side and start using that shuck brain if you got one”, he says.

Alby continues, stating that the events of the past few days can’t be a coincidence. Ever since Thomas arrived, everything has been changing. He asks Thomas to promise him that he will divulge any information as soon as he remembers anything. Thomas isn’t sure about this, he’d rather keep his memories to himself until he’s sure of what he is recalling. Still, he half-heartedly promises to do so.

Thomas slinks away to the Deadheads and finds a tree to rest under. He is just beginning to drift off to sleep when Chuck comes running up to him excitedly. He tells Thomas that Ben is alive. Thomas immediately awakens and stands up. The arrow that Alby fired missed Ben’s brain. He is in the Slammer, the Glade’s jail, awaiting sentencing for attacking Thomas. The likely sentence will be banishment. Thomas asks Chuck what that means. Where will he be banished to? Chuck simply smiles. It is the most frightening and disturbing moment that Thomas has witnessed so far in the Glade. Chuck runs off to share the news with others.

That night, Alby and Newt gather the Gladers at the East Door shortly before it closes. Anticipation is in the air. Alby orders that Ben be brought out. Ben is escorted by two larger boys who drag him to the East Door. Alby orders Chuck to fetch something called the Pole from a tool shed nearby. Newt brings forth a long aluminum pole, maybe twenty feet in length. There is a strange attachment at one end. Newt hands the Pole to Alby. The attachment at the end is a loop of rough leather. Thomas understands immediately. It is a collar.

Ch 14

Thomas watches as the collar is fastened around Ben’s neck. Ben’s eyes glisten with tears and snot runs from his nostrils. He begins to plead with Alby, claiming it was only the Changing that made him do it. “I never would’ve killed him - just lost my mind for a second”, he pleads.

Thomas can’t stand listening to his pleading. He is wracked with guilt. Is this boy going to die now because of him? Alby ignores Ben’s pleas. He grips the pole tight while facing the crowd. His eyes are bloodshot and his breathing heavy. Thomas decides that Alby suddenly looks evil. Ben looks helpless, thin, pale, and scrawny.

Alby ceremoniously proclaims that the Keepers have decided to banish Ben for the crime of the attempted murder of Thomas the Newbie. Thomas hates having his name be publically tied to Ben’s banishment. He just wants all of this to be over.

The Keepers step out from the crowd and grab the Pole. Thomas suddenly finds himself wondering why Ben has to be punished like this. Isn’t there anything that can be done to help him? Ben begins frantically screaming for mercy and help. Thomas can’t even bear to look at him.

His cries are cut short by the sound of the East Door beginning to close. Alby orders the Keepers to push, forcing the condemned boy out into the Maze. Ben tries to resist but it is of no use. He is forced outside the walls but manages to turn and face the Gladers. Thomas can’t believe he is even human at this point. Ben looks so alien with his mad eyes and pale skin. Ben lets out a piercing scream as the front part of the Pole detaches, leaving Ben outside as the walls close. Thomas squeezes his eyes shut and is surprised to feel tears trickling down his cheeks.

Ch 15

For the second night in a row, Thomas finds himself haunted by the image of Ben’s face. He tried to imagine what Ben was facing out in the Maze. Maybe becoming a Runner was not such a great idea after all. Thomas saw the importance of the rule regarding who could enter the Maze. Still, the idea of becoming a Runner continued to call to him.

Thomas wakes at dawn, still groggy from a poor night’s rest. Newt taps him on the shoulder and tells him that today he will be working with the Track-hoes, the Gladers who work in the Gardens. Zart is their Keeper.

The East Door wall opens suddenly. Thomas looks over half-expecting to see Ben still standing there. Instead, it is just Minho, stretching in preparation for the day. Minho steps out and picks up something. It is the section of pole with the leather collar still attached. Minho tosses it to one of the Runners who places it back in the tool shed. Newt tells Thomas that he has seen three Gladers banished in his time. In each case the Grievers leave the collar on the Gladers doorstep. “Gives me the willies like nothin’ else”, he says.

Thomas asks about the Runners. Who are they? Newt explains that they are the best of the best. Everything depends on them. Thomas asks why Newt isn’t one of them. Newt looks at Thomas sharply and explains that he was until he hurt his leg a few months ago. When Thomas asks how it happened, Newt says it was from running from the Grievers. “Still gives me the chills thinkin’ I might have gone through the Changing.”

Thomas asks what the Changing is. He wonders if everyone goes insane the way Ben did. Newt tells him that Ben was the worst case yet. He quickly steers the conversation back to the topic of the Runners. Thomas takes the hint. He asks if there is some kind of test to become a Runner. Newt stops him and says that a Runner has to be smarter, stronger, and faster than everyone else. A Runner needs to be bold but not reckless, decisive, and not easily frightened. Newt says he does not miss the Maze.

Thomas asks what is so bad about it if the Grievers only come out at night. Newt reminds him that they usually only come at night but it is not a given. The Maze changes every night. The stress is what is most frightening. There is always the possibility that a Runner will get lost and not be able to make it back. Newt asks why he is so interested. Thomas admits he wants to be a Runner. Newt tells him he will have to prove himself before that can happen, and that means working. Thomas argues that he can’t spend his time doing this work, he has to be out there. He is sure of it. Newt stops him again. If Thomas goes around saying things like that he will never become a Runner. Newt tells him he will only make enemies that way. He advises Thomas to drop the matter.

Thomas persists. Newt becomes angry and tells him that there is an order to how the Glade works. It is what has allowed them to stay alive. If Thomas stays quiet about this, Newt offers, he will see if he can’t make him a potential trainee as a Runner. Thomas agrees. The two boys head off to get some food.

Thomas gets his first look at Frypan, who is probably about sixteen years old. Nonetheless, Frypan sports a full beard and works diligently to make the food. Thomas and Newt join Chuck for breakfast. He learns that Minho and Alby set out that morning to get a look at the dead Griever. Chuck inquires about the monster. He asks Newt who killed it. Thomas realizes that this is an excellent question. Newt has no idea.

ANALYSIS

Thomas's ordeal continues as he is faced with the violence of Ben's attack and resulting death. It is also the second time someone in the Glade has claimed to have seen him before. Dashner adds Thomas's mysterious past to the list of puzzles to be solved. Part of the hero's journey is to leave a familiar home to find adventure, be tested, and ultimately find what he or she is made of. Thomas's past becomes a central goal for his character to unravel and his origin becomes tied to the overall well-being of the other Gladers. In order for Thomas to learn about who he really is, he must face great dangers that will risk his life and face his fear of learning something about himself he may not like.

Dashner foreshadows Thomas's concerns about his past at various moments in the novel and ties these moments to Teresa. Thomas knows that he and Teresa share a connection of some kind but is unsure what it is. His unexplained feelings of guilt also suggest that he has committed some sort of crime or other wrongdoing to place him, and others, in the Glade. Dashner uses this guilt to add to Thomas's burden as well as his sense of justice. Thomas sees the need to protect individuals he barely knows, especially Teresa. Once again, Dashner uses her character as a means to push Thomas's character development. Unfortunately, Teresa is only scantily developed as an individual and seems to exist in the narrative solely to contribute to the male protagonist's development.

Consider that Thomas is wracked with guilt over Ben's death. This is a boy who inexplicably attacked him for no reason. Yet, Thomas is sympathetic to Ben when one would expect him to be indifferent or even pleased that Ben is dead. Instead, he has difficulty sleeping that night. Thomas comes to embody more noble and humane characteristics. Unlike the pervasive Glader mentality that anyone who breaks rules or behaves differently must be punished severely, Thomas places no blame on Ben directly. He sees Ben as a victim. One of Thomas's defining characteristics is that he places the well-being of others above his own. His motivations for this may be questioned, even unhealthy, as when they are motivated by guilt rather than true empathy, but he stands out as one of the only Gladers to do so. Thomas exhibits a care for humanity in the face of terrifying odds.

Dashner does not tend to linger on these personal moments long. Quickly, he shifts the attention to another character. Minho emerges as a cocky, arrogant type who slowly grows on Thomas. He is practical and utilitarian, and like Thomas harbors something of an independently-minded, rebellious streak. Although the ages of the boys are never clearly detailed, there is the sense that Minho is older or at the very least, wiser, than many of the other Gladers. Minho is initially dismissive of Thomas, even something of a bully. Thomas thinks to himself that he must stand up to Minho. In this exchange, we can see the novel's allegory to a young teenager's experiences in high school. Despite his attitude, Minho's methods are direct and goal-oriented, something Thomas admires and feels is lacking in the Glade. Minho's introduction comes to suggest a possible alliance for Thomas but also marks the beginning of a loss of power on Alby's part. Consider also that it can also be argued that Alby began to lose this power when Teresa arrived, or that he never possessed any real authority at all.

However, Alby's importance in the novel is not to be overlooked. He is the first character to really push Thomas out of his initial shock and depression upon arriving in the Glade. Thomas tends to take everything that is said to him personally. This will only hamper his development. While he retains his humane and caring side, he must also develop a tougher side if he is to be of any use to anyone. Regardless, Thomas's arrival in the Glade was itself a harbinger of change and this fact was not lost on Alby. He is suspicious of Thomas with good reason. Dashner uses this suspicion to further heighten our own lack of knowledge about Thomas and the possibility that our protagonist may not be what he seems.

Thomas is tested again when he learns that Ben is still alive and facing punishment. This sequence demonstrates that a thin line between savagery and civilization exists in the Glade. Thomas's guilt over Ben's condition and subsequent banishment is poignantly illustrated by the manner in which Ben is removed from the Glade. The collar that is placed around Ben's neck evokes images of the Slave Trade. Ben is totally helpless under its power and its placement around his neck further dehumanizes him. Thomas is also shocked at Alby's frightening bloodshot eyes as he takes control of the collar. The act of casting Ben into the Maze also dehumanizes the Gladers involved. In Thomas's eyes their brand of justice amounts to murder. Ben will die because he attacked Thomas while in a state of madness. The horror of the entire ordeal drives Thomas to tears. This continues to prove his emotional engagement of the moment. He retains his empathy toward his fellow human beings, and thus, retains his humanity as well.

The challenge of the Maze is detailed a bit more in this section of the novel. We come to learn how difficult it is to navigate. Dashner builds the Maze into something of a character itself. It is designed to test the Gladers physically and mentally, but it is also designed to test their perseverance and patience. After two years the Runners have still not found a way out, yet they try everyday nevertheless. If they simply gave up, their entire social order would collapse and their survival would be threatened. Thomas learns this directly from Newt. Order and a consistent routine have allowed the Gladers to retain their sanity. Each boy has a role to play and a job to perform. Thomas's patience is also tested. He wants to be a Runner immediately, a prestigious position in the Glade and not for the faint of heart. He insists that he can't spend his time doing the other jobs first. Newt reminds him that such an attitude will not win him any friends. Newt's admonition seems to allow Thomas to realize that though he may be different he is not automatically exempt from the same standards as everyone else. He, too, must persevere in order to reach his goal. The importance of order and persistence emerge as themes in the novel. Consider this as the novel progresses and Thomas demonstrates that some of these routines may actually be hindering any progress. In that regard, bravery and risk-taking will also become important themes.