The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner Summary and Analysis of Chapters 16 to 20

Ch 16

Zart is a tall, dark-haired boy. He had stood at the front of the Pole during Ben’s banishment. He begins by showing Thomas the ropes on weeding, pruning, planting, and picking fruits and vegetables. Thomas doesn’t love the work but doesn’t mind it as much as his experience at the Blood House.

Despite his imposing figure, Zart seems more approachable than other Keepers. Thomas begins by asking him about the Keepers: how many are there? What are the job options? Zart begins to explain the various titles and jobs. Many Gladers have more than one job, he adds. Thomas has many more questions but his mind drifts to Ben and the girl, as well as the dead Griever. His current life, he decides, sucks. He decides to focus on work.

By mid-afternoon Thomas is exhausted. Working as a Track-hoe doesn’t seem to be the job for him either. He still wants to be a Runner, as absurd as that notion is. He thinks of the girl again but he pushes those thoughts aside as well. He heads to the Kitchen for a snack and some water. He could eat a full-blown meal though he just ate two hours ago. He grabs an apple and sits down on the ground next to Chuck. Newt sits nearby, by himself. He is biting his nails. Chuck asks what is wrong with Newt. Newt answers himself, saying he can hear them talking. Everything is bothering him. He lists all the problems off: the girl won’t wake up but keeps saying weird things. She’s eating less and less despite the Med-jacks working to keep her healthy. But what is really bothering him is that Alby and Minho should have returned by now. They are hours behind schedule.

Thomas returns to the Gardens. He keeps his eyes on the West Door, expecting to see Minho and Alby at any moment. He thinks back to the conversation with Newt. He had asked Newt why a search party was not organized to scour the Maze for Alby and Minho. Newt is repulsed at the idea. Search parties are forbidden. A genuine look of terror inhabited Newt’s face as he explained this. Whatever had happened to him in the Maze had scarred him badly.

Dinnertime is a somber affair. Newt eats outside so he can watch the West Door for Alby and Minho. Thomas decides to join him there. He can’t stand just sitting around. Thomas pushes Newt again about sending a search party. This enrages Newt. Going into the Maze at night is certain death, he reiterates. It would mean sending more Gladers to die. The doors would close in two minutes. Thomas decides that Newt looks sadder at that moment than he has ever seen anybody else be.

A loud boom echoes out and the doors begin to close. A flicker of movement in the Maze catches Thomas’s eye. It is Minho, with one of Alby’s arms draped over his shoulders, dragging the boy with him. “They got him!”, yells Minho. Thomas calls to Newt who turns and begins to run back to the Door.

Alby falls to the ground. Minho stops and tries to carry him but is forced to try dragging the boy along the ground. The right wall is closing fast. The two boys are still a hundred feet away. Only seconds remained. Minho stumbles and falls to the ground. They are not going to make it. Thomas decides he has no choice and runs out into the Maze as the Door shuts behind him.

Ch 17

Thomas freezes in place outside the Wall, overcome with fear at what he has just done. A sharp cry from Alby up ahead snaps him to attention. He runs toward Minho and Alby.

Minho looks terrible, covered in scratches and sweat. Alby looks even worse. His clothes are torn and he is covered with cuts and bruises. Minho tells Thomas that he is “the shuckiest shuck-faced shuck there ever was” for coming out here. He’s as good as dead.

Thomas is angered by this. He did this to help these two Gladers. He feels like kicking Minho in the face. But as he looks closer at the two boys he realizes how bad things are. Alby looks to be on the verge of death. His breathing is shallow and his skin has paled considerably.

Thomas asks Minho what happens. Minho is reluctant to discuss it but finally states that Grievers seem to be really good at playing dead. He tells Thomas that Alby may die at any moment. He doesn’t know how long he has without the Serum. Minho is sure they will all be dead soon.

Minho’s attitude annoys Thomas. He is trying to remain hopeful. He asks if anyone has ever been stuck outside during the night and survived. Minho answers in the negative. Minho mentions the bodies in the Graveyard. There are twelve there, but Minho adds that this only constitutes the bodies that were found. There are others that were never recovered.

Minho orders Thomas to grab Alby’s legs and help move him outside the Door so that his body will be easily found. Thomas cannot believe the morbidity of the statement. Thomas looks up at the vines covering the walls. He asks Minho if they could climb them to get away. “You really think we’ve never had the ingenious thought of climbing the freaking walls?”, answers Minho. Thomas is unsure if he feels more anger or pity for Minho.

A noise in the darkness changes their focus. It sounds like knives being rubbed together and a series of eerie clicks. It’s getting louder. Minho tells Thomas they have to split up. It’s their only chance. With that, Minho disappears into the darkness of the Maze.

Ch 18

A sudden dislike for Minho begins to swell inside Thomas. How could he, a veteran Runner, leave him like that? How was it that Minho was the one who had panicked? Fear begins to take over Thomas’s mind. He stops himself and re-focuses. He runs over to Alby and finds a weak pulse.

Thomas learns a lot about himself in those few seconds. He learns a lot about the Thomas that was before. He can’t leave a friend to die. He drags Alby onto his back and lifts him off the ground, but falls to the ground. Alby is too heavy. He grabs Alby by the arms and finally manages to drag him up the wall and lean him against it.

Thomas looks up at the ivy growing on the wall. Minho had dismissed the idea before but Thomas believes he has a plan. He tears down some of the vines. They are quite thick and strong. Thomas begins pulling down several of them, creating a series of climbing ropes. They hold his weight.

The sounds in the Maze become louder still. Thomas begins to lift Alby’s body off the ground with a painstaking series of steps. He ties Alby’s body in one spot with the vines, then pushes him up, then re-ties him. In this manner, he is able to get Alby off the ground. When he had completely depleted his energy, Thomas knew that the two Gladers were now where they would have to hide or make their stand.

The Grievers were closer now, Thomas could see light out in the distance. A red light on his left, on the wall, caught his eye. Thomas turns to see a Beetle Blade just inches from him. Thomas is able to clearly make out the word “WICKED” written on its side, in what appears to be blood. It scuttles off quickly.

A mechanical squeal in the Maze, followed by a surge of machinery, catches his attention. He looks down and waits and then he sees a Griever appear.

Ch 19

The Griever resembles a giant slug. It has no distinguishable head or tail but is about six feet long and covered with sharp metal spikes that emerge from its flesh every fifteen seconds or so. It can then curl into a ball and spin forward with these spikes sticking out. Long mechanical arms also protrude from the creature. Some of these have small lights on them. Some of these have needles on them. Thomas can’t imagine who would create such a frightening thing.

Thomas hopes that the Griever has not seen him and Alby. But it is apparent that the Beetle Blade has given away their position. The Griever stops at the wall where Alby and he are hanging. Suddenly all the lights on the creature go out, as if someone turned it off. It sits silently. Thomas tries to control his breathing and stay as still as possible. Maybe it will pass on.

Suddenly, the Griever comes back to life and begins to climb the wall.

Ch 20

The Griever’s spikes shred the surrounding ivy. One of the Griever’s lights is fixated directly on Thomas. He knows he must run. He has no choice. But which way? He can’t go up without bringing the Griever across Alby. Going down would be suicide. Thomas grabs a vine to his left and swings out, grabbing another vine before he swings back toward Alby and the Griever’s pass. In this manner, Thomas is able to move from one vine to another across the wall.

Thomas looks back to see that the Griever is pursuing him, leaving Alby where he is unharmed. Finally, he thinks, something is going right. Before he can realize it, Thomas has reached the next wall, which turns right. He swings into darkness before knowing this and collides with the wall, nearly falling. He manages to grab a vine and stay up but the Griever is close behind him. It reaches out for him with a metal claw. Thomas connects with a sharp kick. He hears the metal arm crack. He swings back toward the monster, this time pushing off it with both his legs. As he swings away he feels a deep scratch in his back. One of the metal claws has cut him.

Thomas makes his way to the ground and breaks into a run. He turns down different corridors, trying to keep track of his movements. As he rounds the next corner, panting uncontrollably, he sees three more Grievers ahead coming toward him.


Thomas attempts to drown his sorrows in the orderly business of work, though he is still drawn to the job of Runner. Despite the dangers it poses, the role still calls to him. This temporary order is quickly disrupted when Thomas learns that Minho and Alby have not returned on schedule. Dashner will juxtapose these moments of order and chaos often throughout the novel. Partially this can be seen as a technique to propel the action in the narrative and keep the reader engaged. However, it is important to remember that thematically these two forces, chaos and order, occur repeatedly throughout the novel and are in a constant battle to assert their own control.

Just as Thomas is trying to look to establishing an ordered routine to help him forget about the events in the book so far, a chaotic and threatening element is introduced. The leader of the Glade and the Keeper of the Runners are both missing. When the two boys do appear Thomas instinctively decides to rush out to help them, breaking the cardinal rule of never leaving the protected vicinity of the Glade.

Thomas does not break this rule maliciously, but does so to help two boys he barely knows. Once again, in keeping with the hero archetype, Thomas thinks of the well-being of others, this time placing himself in danger. What follows is one of the defining traumatic experiences and tests that Thomas faces in the novel. Such tests are also part of the hero archetype. Generally, the hero must rally against seemingly impossible odds and overcome fear to emerge triumphant. This experience will come to define the hero character and serve as a means of propelling that character's development. Thomas is no exception.

To best illustrate this, Dashner plunges into a completely chaotic situation. Keeping with the major thematic conflict of chaos and order, Thomas emerges as the calm center of the storm, besting even Minho's more experienced track record. Bravery is another theme that is present in this moment. Thomas is largely on his own as he enters the Maze. He has no experience in the environment and both Minho and Alby have been through a great ordeal just to get this far. Alby has been stung and Minho has been run ragged. It is at this moment, when he is most needed, that Thomas's true potential emerges.

Here we can also see a return to the Jungian hero archetype. Part of Jung's analysis of the hero is a defining "belly of the beast" or "dragon fight" moment in which the hero is pitted against a terrible foe. In classic Greek mythology various monsters like Medusa or the Minotaur embodied such frightening moments. The hero could submit to these obstacles or decide to journey further toward a conscious confrontation with this monster. This descent usually involved Hades, the underworld. Here, Dashner uses the Maze as a metaphorical underworld. He will revisit this toward the end of the novel in the Griever Hole.

Thomas has already willingly decided to enter the Maze to help Minho and Alby. The monster in question is the Griever. Jung's "belly of the beast" interpretation served a dual role. This "belly" also had a uterine interpretation, allowing the hero to be "reborn" into a new identity should he or she endure the encounter. The journey that Thomas must endure is the Maze and its labyrinthine environment. It is totally unknown to him, even more a mystery to him than it would be to an established and experienced Runner. Nonetheless, Thomas is able to rise to the occasion and not only stay alive in this initial encounter, but keep Alby from further danger as well.

Interestingly, Dashner hints toward this change in Thomas as he writes that Thomas learns a lot about the Thomas that he was before. Thomas seems to become aware of this self-discovery or self re-discovery, as the case may be. The hero's journey then becomes synonymous with knowledge of the self. The descent into the underworld can become a metaphorical journey as well as a literal one. Consider this as Thomas learns more about himself as the novel progresses.