The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Examine the slang used by the Gladers. Why do you think Dashner invented such terminology for them to use? How does it affect the manner in which the story is told?

    Dashner's own comments on the particular lexicon of the Gladers reveals that the author had two intentions when creating it. As posted by the author on his blog,, the Glader slang allows the reader to understand that the story takes place in a time very different from our own. Post apocalyptic dystopian novels and films tend to take place in the near or distant future as a sort of warning of what may befall humanity if we maintain the course we are on.

    Second, the author notes that the slang allowed the book to be read by young adults and teens without being banned by schools for offensive language. The slang matches the harshness of the world the Gladers inhabit. By allowing the Gladers to employ "adult" language without themselves being adults or risking censorship, Dashner is able to place these teenagers in perilous situations for which they are otherwise ill-prepared. It adds to the horror of their situation: these children never got a chance to be children.

  2. 2

    At numerous times in the novel, the importance of order in the Glade is spoken of. At various times, Thomas becomes tired of hearing about it. Why is order so important for the Glader community? When the true nature of WICKED and the Glade are revealed at the end, what does it say about the children who were chosen for the Maze?

    Order comes to symbolize hope, but also allows the Gladers to overlay a sense of normalcy in their otherwise abnormal lives. Without order and organization they would be more likely to compete with each other instead of cooperate. The Creators have chosen them with the express intention that these children are smart enough to understand the need for cooperation to ensure their mutual survival.

    The Glade comes to be place of order, while the Maze is pure chaos. It gives this community a place of respite. If they are allowed to succumb to their fears and paranoia, the Glade would not survive and the test of the Maze would be largely wasted. Order allows the Gladers to retain a sense of purpose.

  3. 3

    Examine the link between Thomas and Teresa. Besides sharing a literal telepathic link, what other similarities can we discern? Is Teresa the only person who can really understand Thomas's situation?

    Dashner appears to want the reader to draw an association between these two characters. He even gives the alliterative names, beginning with the same letter. As it is revealed that the two characters were involved in the creation of the Maze we begin to see that Thomas emerges as a leader within the community, though he is largely driven by guilt and concern over the well-being of his new friends.

    By allowing he and Teresa to share a telepathic link, Dashner implies that the two characters are able to know more about each other than would be possible for other characters to do. This link makes it difficult for them to hide things from each other. As such, Teresa is privy to both information the others do not know, as well as Thomas's emotional state. They become confidants for each other, helping each other through a difficult time. Because of this, Teresa has a much greater understanding of the responsibility Thomas feels to the others as well as the emotional weight of the promise he made to Chuck.

  4. 4

    Chuck and Alby both sacrifice themselves in the novel, though for differing reasons. Compare these two characters and why they sacrifice themselves.

    Alby is portrayed as the leader of the Gladers, though as the story progresses we can see that Alby's leadership skills erode, particularly following the Changing. As he remembers more about the world as it is he is less enthusiastic about leaving the Glade. The Glade has become his home and his sense of a normal life. In the Glade life is hard but simple. He has a clear role and clear responsibilities that come with his title. Leaving the Glade is difficult because he does not believe the real world is a pleasant place to inhabit. There, he has no power or authority. Alby is very much like a prisoner who has been incarcerated for a long time only to learn that he will soon be released. The world outside is unfamiliar and foreign. He would much prefer to stay where he is. He deliberately throws himself onto the Grievers to end his life.

    Chuck is something of a social outcast, making him similar to the character of Piggy in William Golding's "The Lord of The Flies", a book Dashner credits as an inspiration in creating the The Maze Runner Trilogy. Like Piggy, Chuck's death is senseless. While Piggy's was a case of murder, Chuck's is a sacrifice to save Thomas, for what he believes is the greater good. Thomas has always been kind to him and promised to do all he can to return Thomas to his loving family. Chuck is naive and portrayed as less worldly or younger than the other Gladers. He is innocence incarnate. In Thomas he sees a savior, someone who can change the world for the better. Though it remains to be seen how this affects Thomas in the other books in the series, Chuck appears to be a sacrificial lamb, a character whose death inspires the main character to take up a cause.

  5. 5

    A number of Young Adult novels exist now (The Hunger Games, Maximum Ride, as well as the Maze Runner) which present a dystopian worldview. These books have become increasingly popular with Young Adults as well as other demographics. Why do you think that is? Are they purely escapism or is there more to it than that?

    These novels tend to share a characteristic: there are no adult characters in them to guide the children. The children or teenagers have to fend for themselves and establish their own order. This can be seen as partially fulfilling a young adult's need for independence and autonomy. They wish to be able to make decisions for themselves and not to be seen as children. There is a fine line to this, as at times in the novel, Thomas and Chuck both dream of living as ordinary children instead of being constantly afraid of monsters.

    Some scholars also believe that young adults relate to the themes in these novels because it mirrors the world they are entering. With issues such as a stagnant economy, environmental destruction, and political instability and war inhabiting their everyday lives they are concerned for their own future. A story that presented a more utopian setting would simply not ring true for them.

    Some scholars feel that the high school experience can feel like an unending series of tests with a great deal of attention placed on each thing a student does. In this sense, the books simply reflect the growing market of young adult readers. When compared with other young adult novels such as "1984", "A Clockwork Orange", and "A Catcher In The Rye", they reflect the adolescent mindset rather than an actual dystopian world.

    These stories also feature an antagonist that is sometimes not a single character, but an entire system, usually headed by adults. This system is therefore older, even antiquated, and must be replaced. It is up to these young adults to fight this system and install one that is fresher, fairer, and more progressive in its place.

  6. 6

    Examine Thomas's transformation from frustrated newcomer to a leadership position and eventual savior. How does Dashner use this character arc to invest the reader in Thomas's story?

    Dashner allows Thomas to be our guide through the story. As we enter the Glade with Thomas, we know as little as he does about his situation or the setting. As the reader learns more through Thomas's experiences, we become invested in his desire to become a Runner. We come to believe that he can lead the others out of the Maze successfully.

    Dashner relies on time-tested methods of storytelling to reveal Thomas's true character. By placing Thomas in situations of conflict we as the reader are able to see how he will react. Will he face his fear or run away from it? Because Thomas sometimes does both, we can see his vulnerability and thus, his humanity. This allows the reader to relate to Thomas and begin to champion his side.

    This is reflected in the fact that the other characters around Thomas slowly begin to see that he is different. While they are suspicious at first, he begins to win them over. They come to believe that perhaps he can help them. This additional responsibility upon Thomas also separates him from the others. He becomes a hero and savior, a lonely position in which he alone feels he must shoulder the burden. This burden is not expressed anywhere as strongly as it is when Chuck sacrifices himself for Thomas.

  7. 7

    Discuss the character of Ben. Specifically, what does the Banishment scene tell us about the nature of the Glade and the boys who live there?

    Ben's character is tragic and, for Thomas, haunting. He feels terrible about the fate that befalls Ben, even though Ben tried to murder him. The lasting image of Ben being removed from the Glade with the collar and the scream he emits as the walls close stay with Thomas for a long time.

    Thomas is dismayed by the extremity of the law in the Glade. Clearly, he feels, Ben needs help, not punishment. The Keepers decide that Ben's banishment is a necessity to maintaining the natural order. There is no period of leniency. Ben is not imprisoned to see if he improves.

    It is the cold brutality of the punishment that also leaves an impression on Thomas. These are, after all, teenagers sentencing other teenagers to certain death. While the Glade operates on the condition of maintaining order it does not do so with an eye toward civility. The conditions the Gladers have lived under for two years have made them more savage and less tolerant. The collar itself adds another layer of brutality and dehumanizing to Ben's predicament. It is inherently linked with savagery and historical occurrences such as the Slave Trade. As a result, we sympathize with Ben's situation just as Thomas does.

  8. 8

    Why do you think the Glade was only populated by boys until Teresa was introduced? What was the purpose of this?

    Although this topic is not explicitly discussed in the book, Teresa's appearance in the Glade is a catalyst for change. Everything about her is different: She is the first female to come to the Glade, she arrives unannounced and off-schedule, and she is comatose when she arrives after delivering a cryptic but frightening message. She upsets the natural order of the Glade. Her introduction was meant to trigger the Ending, something the Creators explicitly planned. As part of the larger experimental nature of the Glade, it may have also been to see how the Glader population would react to her.

    The male-only makeup of the Glade resembles a prison. In prisons men and women are generally kept separate to ensure order for the same reason. This also prevents any type of sexual contact between the men and women and ensures there are no unplanned pregnancies or assaults. However, Teresa's femininity is not a major plot point in the novel. Although Dashner makes reference to the potential dangers when some of the boys call "first dibs" on Teresa, her safety is not a major issue. This may have been a decision by Dashner to avoid the topic in a young adult novel.

  9. 9

    Why do you believe the Runners were unable to decipher the Maze even after spending two years running and mapping it? What does this say about their attitude toward it?

    When Thomas first learns that the Runners have been attempting to find their way out of the Maze for two years he is disheartened. If they haven't been successful for all this time, how could he possibly be? However, when Thomas first suggests that the Runners have been going about solving the Maze in the wrong way, that they have been comparing each section only to itself over time, does the first clue reveal itself.

    Minho's defense of their strategy demonstrates the ongoing need for the Gladers to stick to their routine to retain order. The downside of this is that routines become rote and static instead of flexible and adaptive. Only when the order is disturbed by the introduction of Thomas and Teresa do other possibilities begin to emerge. The Runners know that mapping the Maze daily is important, but they have forgotten why. For them the importance is not so much in escaping but in having something to do each day so that they do not lose hope. As is explained to Thomas, working keeps their minds engaged instead of thinking about the dire situation they find themselves in.

  10. 10

    How is the novel a coming-of-age tale? What elements in the story can be seen to support such an interpretation?

    The novel features characters in their teens dealing with the awkward years between childhood and adulthood. While their situation is far more dire and dangerous than the average teenager's, many of their struggles mirror the everyday struggles that teens face everywhere. The Maze itself can be seen as a metaphor for the confusion young adults face as they begin to navigate their own lives and the real worlds. The Maze has no solution and no seeming way out until Thomas shows the Gladers a different way of looking at the Maze. The way out is one they may have all suspected for quite some time. The Griever Hole is the most frightening way out. The Gladers are forced to face their own doubts and fears to move past it, just as teenagers have to get past their own fears to achieve real growth.

    The novel also thematically deals with the issue of authority and how to overcome it one must frequently create their own order and authority. Well-meaning adults use authority to control their children and keep them safe. It is only when that child is able to maintain control and discipline in their own lives that they can throw off the shackles of an outside authority. In this manner, Thomas also struggles with his own issues with becoming an authority figure. The responsibility on him frightens him but he rises to accept it.

    Romantic feelings are also a common trope in coming of age stories. Thomas begins to develop romantic feelings for Teresa, though he is unsure of how to handle these feelings. He and Teresa come to be seen as a couple, and Thomas starts to see Chuck as a younger brother. This family structure demonstrates growth on Thomas's part as well. He goes from wanting to escape the Glade and its inhabitants to becoming a surrogate father figure.