Thomas begins inside the Box, an old, dilapidated elevator cab. It is established here that Thomas doesn’t know who he is, where he’s going, or why. The chapter begins in the dark of the elevator car, in mid-action, with the narrative already under way. Thomas arrives, a door is opened from the ceiling of the elevator, and Thomas is met by bright light and the gabble of the Gladers. The first thing Thomas hears introduces us to the slang of the Glade. Thomas is identified as a shank—a derogatory term for someone of no great worth. We learn that, in the opinion of the Gladers, there is no possible return from the Glade. Thomas is pulled from the box by rope, and enters into his new world.
Thomas gets his first view of the Glade and its residents. The boys are poorly dressed, grubby, of many races and types. The Glade is dilapidated, with worn looking buildings and a grove of trees, after which the Glade is named. There are gardens and livestock pens, also. Thomas hears more Glade slang: Keeper, Greenie, Slopper, the Cliff. It is in this chapter that Thomas first recognizes the unexplained hatred a young man named Gally holds for him. Alby, the leader, introduces himself, as does Newt, the second-in-command. Alby is prickly and defensive, and it’s made clear he’s only recently moved into the primary leadership after the death of the previous leader, Nick. Newt, however, is more welcoming and easier to deal with.
Newt is preparing to bring Thomas to Chuck, the young boy who will be his friend and temporary mentor, when their conversation is interrupted by the screams of Ben, who has been stung by a monster called a Griever and who is undergoing the Change that is the best result of a Griever sting...the worst result being death, if the sting is not treated in time.
Thomas sees a beetle blade—a small, insectile spying device marked with the mysterious word WICKED. He meets Chuck. Chuck is among the youngest of the Gladers: small, chubby, ordinary, with no outstanding skills, Chuck comes to be one of Thomas’ most valued friends, and the child whom Thomas most sees as “family.” Chuck provides Thomas with more information on his new world, explaining terms like Greenbean, indicating the newest member of the community, and the Change, from which Ben currently suffers .
At this time Thomas also has his first direct confrontation with Gally and his friends. Gally succeeds in goading Thomas to go upstairs in the main home-building of the Glade, known as the Homestead, where he witnesses Ben’s terrifying physical transformation and suffering.
Chuck continues to educate Thomas regarding the realities of the Maze world. Thomas witnesses the closing of the Doors that separate the Glade from the Maze for the first time. He’s originally incredulous, unable to believe the giant segments of wall can close at all, and uneasy about the curfew Chuck explains is in effect at sundown: that no one leaves the compound for fear of being out all night. Chuck explains the existence of the Maze, which Thomas also finds hard to believe or accept. He has his first experience of the Maze Runners returning for the night.
Chuck and Thomas approach the community latrines, which are occupied. Chuck decides to play a prank on the occupant, who proves to be the already hostile Gally. Thomas is seen, and Gally makes it clear he’s going to hold a grudge. The two boys bunk down outdoors in sleeping bags for the night.
The chapter is primarily useful in intensifying the friendship forming between Chuck and Thomas, and the enmity between Gally and Thomas.
Newt wakes Thomas and brings him to look through a window in the wall into the night of the Maze itself. Thomas sees his first Griever. Grievers are a variety of monster which pursue the Maze Runners, who are out at day. They are most prevalent at night, when they prowl the Maze killing anyone they find. The Grievers look like fat, blubbery gigantic blobs “the size of a cow,” armed with retractable spikes, needles, mechanical arms, and other devices.
Contemplating what he has learned later in the morning, Thomas realizes he wants—is meant—to become a Maze Runner. Before he can ask or proceed with this, however, he’s approached by Alby, the leader of the community, to be given the Tour to familiarize him with his new home.
This chapter introduces Thomas and the reader to the basic layout of the Maze and the compound known as the Glade. We learn that the Box brings supplies once a week, and a new Greenie once a month. We learn that the Glade is divided into four section, consisting of the Homestead (main house), Gardens, Blood House (butchering areas), and Deadheads (a cemetery within the grove of trees at one side of the compound). We learn that Thomas will be assigned to do various categories of work in the Glade until one is found that fits his skills and abilities. We learn a few of those categories: Slopper, Bricknick, Bagger, Track-hoe, Slicer. We are not given definitions of these jobs, however.
We learn that Alby has been in the Glade for two years, and that in that two years no progress has been made in solving the Maze in spite of constant dedicated effort.
Thomas is told The Number One Rule: no one is allowed into the Maze except the Runners, who are trained for the job—and who still often die. Thomas is told that the beetle blades are believed to be observation devices of the mysterious people who created the Maze and sent the boys there: the Creators. At the conclusion of the chapter the Box—the elevator into the compound—sets off an “incoming load” alarm off-schedule, to the amazement and distress of Alby and the residents.
While waiting to learn about the Box, Thomas is given a rundown by Chuck on all the ways the Gladers have attempted to escape using the Box and the Box shaft. None have worked. Chuck also gives Thomas the very first outline of what is happening with Ben: he’s been stung by a Griever, and is Changing. Before Chuck can say more, the Box arrives.
The Box contains a lone girl: the first girl ever to arrive in the Glade. She at first appears to be dead. She’s pulled from the box through the ceiling hole. Alby is upset, not so much at a dead girl as at a change in the patterns of the life of the Glade. Alby’s experience is that changes are bad, and he associates this change with Thomas’ arrival. He quizzes Thomas regarding the girl, but Thomas has no memory of her.
The girl wakes, then, surprising everyone, and says one thing, before falling back into a coma with her fist in the air. “Everything is going to change.” Then, in her fist is found a note: “She’s the last one. Ever.”
This chapter provides a key turning point for the story. Until this time, Thomas has no strong reason to believe his own arrival was likely to lead to anything different than those of the other boys. With the arrival of the new, mysterious girl with a message, he must wonder if Gally’s concerns are valid.
The girl is examined by the two Glade Med-jacks (medics), who don’t know what’s wrong with her. She is moved into the Homestead to be cared for, after a few rounds of coarse suggestions by the Gladers. Alby commands that the girl is not to be used or abused in any way.
After she’s taken away, Thomas considers the fact that, while he has no clear memories of her, he does feel a sense of connection with her. He also worries over the fact that Alby and others associate him and his arrival with the sudden change in the pattern of Box arrivals, and with the threat of change brought by the girl.
Chuck and Thomas eat, and review the situation of the boys in the Glade. Thomas fears that they may be criminals, sent to prison for reasons they no longer understand because they’ve been brain-wiped. Thomas then proceeds to further explore the Glade on his own, as his Tour with Alby has been cut short.
Thomas follows an obviously artificial lizard-creature into the grove of trees. He loses it among the trees, but finds himself at the cemetery. While there he is attacked by the Changed boy, Ben, who has escaped from his confinement, and who is still not recovered.
This chapter confirms some of the stories Thomas has heard from the other boys, including tales of the Changed, and a story of a boy who was cut in half while trying to escape via the Box shaft. It also underlines the consistent antipathy for Thomas held by the Changed boys. Bit by bit Dashner is building up the reader’s awareness of the pressures placed on all the Gladers, the impossibility of their position, and the exceptional ways Thomas is seen.
Ben and Thomas fight. Ben bites Thomas. Alby comes and cuts the fight short, and demands Ben explain why he’s attacked the new Greenie. Ben, still half-mad from the memories returned by the Change, assures Alby that he knows Thomas, and that Thomas is “bad.” Ben becomes increasingly frantic. Alby warns him off, but Ben fails to control himself. Ben is then shot by hidden archers at Alby’s command.
Chuck and Thomas later talk, and Chuck makes it clear that what happened is not that unusual. They sleep, and the next day Chuck wakes Thomas. At breakfast they learn from Newt that the girl is still in a coma. Thomas is assigned the first job any new Greenie is given: working with the Slicers, who butcher the stock for the Glade. He meets Winston, the Keeper of the Slicers. The chapter ends as Thomas witnesses the arrival of the Keeper of the Runners, Minho, who collapses.
By using Chuck as Thomas’ primary source of information, Dashner is able to expand the relationship between the two boys while providing a steady stream of information dumps for both Thomas and the reader. This allows Dashner to explore Chuck as a surrogate brother for Thomas, while ensuring the character remains useful to the structure of the story.
Thomas helps take Minho to see Alby. Along the way he finds that Minho is one of the first ever to arrive at the Glade. Minho tells Alby he’s found a dead Griever in the Maze, something never before encountered.
This chapter is important in building the readers’ awareness of Minho, who will prove to be an important character to Thomas and to the novel. It also sets the stage for a critical event in coming chapters. It provides a new sign of the changes to the world of the Maze, and gives Minho and Alby reason to leave the compound, a decision that vitally alters the remainder of the story.
Alby and Minho discuss the situation. It becomes clear over time that the situation is truly unique in Minho’s and Alby’s experience.
Thomas, having gotten snarked at by Alby, asks why Alby hates him. Alby makes it clear that he does not hate Thomas. Instead he is angry and afraid of the changes associated with Thomas, and determined to protect the Gladers if Thomas represents a threat.
Thomas goes to rest under a tree, and tries to nap. He’s interrupted by Chuck, who comes with the news that Ben didn’t actually die from the arrow wound. He’s being held as a prisoner in the Glade lock-up, called the Slammer. The community Keepers have already held a meeting and have determined that Ben must be banished from the community.
Before the Doors out into the Maze are to close at sunset, the community is gathered together by the East Door.
There is a short scene in which Ben and Alby discuss the judgment passed on Ben. Just as the Door is closing, Ben is forced out of the compound at the end of a long pole attached to a leather collar. At the last possible moment the final section of the pole is ejected from the main pole, and Ben is left trapped outside in the Maze, alone.
In terms of structure the story provides both the drama of the exile/execution, and also presents the system and authority the boys have developed to stabilize their community. As his interview with YA Highway indicates, this structure and order is important to Dashner, and is an decisive point differentiating him from Golding’s slowly degenerating protagonists in Lord of the Flies.
Newt wakes Thomas with a new job assignment for the day, working in the Gardens. The two boys discuss the Banishment, and Newt recovers the empty collar, let at the threshold of the East Door. Thomas tries to learn more about the Runners, as he continues to feel powerfully drawn to that work. It becomes clear Newt was once a Runner, until an injury. He suggests that if Thomas wants to be a runner, he must somehow prove himself to be an exceptional candidate: the best of the best. Newt also tells Thomas that the Runners are chosen by the Keepers. This leads to a discussion of the importance of order in the survival of the Gladers. Without order they would not function.
The chapter provides a window into Glade community and community structures, and also offers more information about Newt, who serves as a central character throughout the novel.
Thomas works with Zart, the Keeper of the Gardens. Zart proves more informative and less testy than other characters Thomas has dealt with, and Thomas learns some more of the basics of how the world of the Maze works. He provides a partial list of job classifications and the associated Keepers in the Glade. There are Builders, Sloppers, Baggers, Cooks, Map-makers, Med-jacks, Track-Hoes, Blood Housers, and Runners, and probably a few more. Sloppers are the janitors and garbage cleaners of the Glade, a position reserved for those with no other particularly valued skill. Chuck is a Slopper, whether because of his youth or his lack of physical skills. Track-Hoes are the heavy labor of the Gardens and of the Glade, doing such work as trenching. Baggers deal with the dead, but also serve as guards and police.
Later, while eating lunch, Thomas and Chuck have a conversation with Newt, who tells them that the girl is still alive, that she’s delirious, and that he’s convinced this all adds up to something bad.
Minho and Alby have failed to return by noon, when they were expected. Newt makes it clear that no one is allowed out in the Maze to look for the lost, for fear still more will die. Dinner comes and the missing Keeper and Leader have not returned.
The Gladers are all disturbed, and waiting. As the Doors close, though, Minho and Alby approach. Alby is injured, Minho is trying to help support him, and it’s clear that they’re not going to make it into the compound before the Doors close. Thomas, in spite of the rules, chooses to go out the Doors to help Minho and Alby, and as a result is caught outside.
Thomas and Minho argue, with Minho insisting that Thomas was wrong to come out to a certain death. He argues that Alby, who has been stung by the Griever, which was alive after all, will die because he won’t get the Griever Serum. He believes that the only chance Thomas and Minho have at all is to abandon Alby then split up and take evasive action, trying to dodge the Grievers through the Maze all night.
Minho abandons Alby and Thomas to do that.
Minho’s choice contrasts with Thomas’ without making Minho look cowardly or disloyal. His true belief that there is no other possible course of action absolves him of improper action, while still leaving room for Thomas to shine as the greater hero.
Thomas, determined to at least try to save Alby, rappels up the Wall using ivy as a series of rope lines. Thomas lashes Alby to the wall with ivy. This is a fairly substantial chapter, but the majority is description of the action, rather than evolving plot points. Thomas is heroic. Alby is primarily heavy and unconscious, which makes for limited dialog.
As Thomas tries to stay still and limp like Alby, he’s noticed more of the spying beetle blades, and has begun hearing noises from the Maze. He hopes to go unnoticed.
Grievers arrive, and too soon they start climbing the wall, using their spines as pitons.
Thomas then uses more of the vines to Tarzan-swing along the Wall, hoping to draw the Grievers away from Alby. He seems to succeed, and the Grievers chase him along the Wall. The chapter follows the chase until Thomas is forced to the floor of the Maze, and finds himself confronting a group of Grievers who have cornered him.
Thomas uses a classic feint, racing toward the Grievers, then dodging and letting them go past him, leaving him a way out. Unknown to him, Minho is able to see this maneuver.
Thomas continues to flee from the Grievers. Minho joins him, and leads him to one of the few openings out of the Maze: the Cliff, which opens on apparently empty space. Inspired by Thomas’ previous feint, Minho suggests a similar technique with the arriving Grievers. The two poise themselves in front of the Cliff edge, then dart to the sides as the Grievers charge them. All but the last Griever tumble over by their own momentum, and the last one Thomas and Minho send over with a final kick to unbalance the monster.
At this time Thomas notices that the Grievers simply disappear. They don’t land anywhere, as there is no obvious ground to fall to. They aren’t still falling, receding to mere dots. They’re simply gone. This is of importance later.
Exhausted and stressed beyond endurance, Thomas cries as the sun rises and their night in the Maze ends.
Collective Comment, Chapters 19-21
These three chapters form a unified block of action, from Thomas stepping past the Doors to the rising of the sun at the end of the night in the maze. As a dramatic unit they present an emotional line-drive in which Thomas is presented to best advantage as a hero, rather than just a protagonist. He demonstrates loyalty to a companion, determination, self-sacrifice, ingenuity, courage, quick thinking. At the end he shows the final critical character trait needed: vulnerable humanity.
Had Thomas not needed to cry in shock and mourning after all he’s been through, he would be a less successful literary figure. By behaving above and beyond any reasonable expectation while still suffering the fear and grief any reader might, he is proven a full and complete hero, rather than just an action figure.
The reader can see this, and empathise while still admiring Thomas. The reader also knows that Minho has witnessed the same details. This makes Minho’s later support for Thomas plausible, rather than silly and over-the-top.
Thomas and Minho then start preparing to return. Before they do they discuss the “disappearance” of the Grievers, with Minho arguing that disappearance can’t be the correct answer: that they must have fallen. He “proves” it by dropping a rock over the edge. The two boys watch as the rock recedes normally. Thomas is not entirely convinced, but before they can discuss it further Thomas remembers that he left Alby tied to the Wall with ivy, and that they should return and bring him down, hoping to medicate him with Griever Serum if he’s still alive.
We learn that the Griever Serum is another supply that comes from the Creators, and that those who get it in time may live, but are changed in personality. The act of remembering, even when the forget afterwards, appears to darken the character of the Changed, making them difficult to live around, pessimistic, and aggressive.
They find Alby still tied to the Wall, and are met by Newt, who’s amazed they’re alive, but also unsure what they must do next. Thomas has lived, but in living and saving Alby and helping save Minho he also broke the most important rule of the Glade.
Thomas sleeps, and is wakened by Chuck, who offers the news that Alby has lived—but is now entering the Change.
Thomas’ valor and ability to contribute to his new community has now been demonstrated, to the Gladers and the readers. We’ve come through the first major turning point of the story. The next sequences realign the plot, shifting from Thomas simply trying to find his place to Thomas trying to slowly work out his proper role and function beyond day to day survival.
Thomas spends most of the remainder of the day recovering, and brooding on his life in the Glade. At the end of the day Chuck comes with food, and the news that Thomas is the center of gossip racing through the Glade. Some people are awed at what he’s done. Others are furious he’s broken the most critical rule of the group. Everyone, including Thomas and Chuck, is distressed by Alby’s screams while in the process of Change.
Thomas, wanting to know more about the Change, goes with Chuck to speak with Newt. Newt is angry and dismissive at first. He’s stressed at having to lead, stressed to have no answers, and worried for his friend Alby. Thomas is able to settle him down, and asks whether the personality shifts in those who are Changed occur because the Changed are angry to lose their memories again, or because they now suspect that their original lives were even worse. Newt and Chuck have no answers.
Thomas then asks about the girl. She’s still alive, but hasn’t fully woken since she arrived. She speaks deliriously, does eat, but is not aware.
The chapter concludes with the news that Newt has called a meeting of the Keepers to determine what to do about Thomas, and about his breach of the Glade laws.
The chapter has established Thomas beginning his quest to understand his role, reminded us of the mysterious presence of the girl, Teresa, who will provide some of Thomas’ answers, and has announced the first hurdle he must pass to fulfill his role in the world of the Maze.
The Keepers gather. Gally, always angry and suspicious of Thomas, repeatedly disrupts the meeting, pressing for Thomas to be disciplined. Newt is able to retain control of the meeting. The Keepers each take turns giving their own evaluation of what has happened and what should be done. There is strong support for Thomas, but also strong arguments that the Glade can’t afford to make exceptions for rule-breakers. All is progressing fairly well, though, until Gally’s turn arrives. He proceeds to rant, accusing Thomas of being a spy for the Creators, and the cause of all the problems and changes occurring and destabilizing the Glade. He also suggests that Thomas didn’t actually save Alby.
This provokes Minho, who then suggests that he himself should resign from the role of Keeper of the Runners, and that Thomas replace him.
This is at once a false lead and a true foreshadowing. The story of the Maze will lead Thomas, Minho, and the Gladers out of the Maze, where the role of Maze Runner matters. However Thomas will be the one to find the only possible answer to the Maze, and he will show the kind of leadership Minho is acknowledging when he makes his suggestion. Because it is a false lead it will allow Dashner to surprise the reader. Because it remains true foreshadowing the reader need not be disappointed, though. The status offered will be equaled in a different form.
Minho’s exaggerated, excessive suggestion disrupts the meeting as much as Gally’s grumbling and anger. It takes Newt some time to bring things back into control. Gally blows up, stating Minho should be kicked off the Council for even saying such a thing. Newt ends up having to scold the entire group.
Once the group is calmer, Newt allows Minho to explain why he would make such a suggestion. Minho argues that the leader of the Runners should be the best of all, and that Thomas the night before demonstrated the calm, courage, and prowess to be the best.
Gally and Minho argue, with Gally losing his temper and being sent from the Council swearing revenge.
In this sequence Dashner has played Gally and his extreme pessimism against Minho and his outsized optimism. Dashner will eventually prove both right, in differing ways, allowing this chapter to serve dramatic presentation of the conflicting views of Thomas and his potential and as another form of preparation for the upcoming events and resolutions.
The meeting is finally concluded with Minho accepting a compromise. Thomas will have a month as a Runner in training, and at the end of the month the Council will review the question. Then the question of Thomas’ discipline is resolved, with Thomas arguing for himself that he does think saving people is the right reason to have broken the rule, especially as he succeeded. The Council accepts Newt’s offer of a minimal one-day punishment in which Thomas will stay in the Slammer, followed by Thomas’ acceptance as a trainee Runner. The Keepers all find this an acceptable way of insisting on discipline but also supporting and recognizing what Thomas has accomplished.
The chapter concludes with the arrival of Chuck, with a message from the Med-jacks: Alby, still in Change, is asking to see Thomas.
As said previously, Dashner cares strongly that the Gladers be able to act from what he feels is the better side of human nature, creating order and structure rather than falling into chaos and anarchy. Chapter twenty-six has demonstrated this through Thomas’ understanding of the reasons for the rules, but also through his strong argument for values and principles greater than the rules.
Newt and Thomas go to see Alby. Alby wakes, and sends Newt from the room, but only after giving a disjointed speech confirming that “everything’s going to change,” and indicating it’s something to do with Thomas and the mystery girl.
Alby then tries to talk to Thomas. This is the first time we hear the Flare mentioned, which will later prove to be a critical event in the past that motivates the creation of the Maze. Alby indicates he’s remembered everything about the past, and has remembered Thomas and the girl. He says that the memories are horrible, and that the Gladers are better off where they are—that no one sane would want to go back.
Thomas tries to ask for more detailed memories, but when Alby tries to answer, something appears to take over his body, forcing him to try to strangle himself. Thomas calls for Newt, and the two boys work to save the leader of the Glade before he can kill himself.
Alby begins to recover, saying that it wasn’t him in charge, but that he was taken over by something that didn’t want him to talk. His last words before falling asleep are to “be careful with the girl,” and “protect the Maps.”
Dashner has presented Alby as a person divided. He’s divided by his own mind, and by the pressures imposed on him by the forces of WICKED. For those who wish to be amused, “the devil made him do it.” He’s unable to fully control his actions.
Thomas and Newt go to eat and discuss what’s happened. Thomas notices that people have become wary of him, and that they watch him, now. He wonders what it is that makes him different from the other people of the Glade.
He and Newt then discuss all that has happened. Newt thinks Gally is lucky not to be Banished for physically attacking Thomas in the Keepers’ meeting, because it disrupted the underlying order of the community. He explains that Thomas will be with Newt for the rest of the day, will spend the following day in the Slammer doing his discipline, and after that will be assigned to Minho for training.
Newt then takes up the point that Alby, the girl, and Gally all think that things are going to change, and soon. Alby, Gally, and Ben all have Change memories of Thomas, and remember him as doing something bad.
Thomas argues he has no memory of any of that. Newt agrees, but points out that the information may still be crucial, and demands Thomas tell him anything that might shed light on the situation.
Thomas has no clear memories, but grudgingly admits that the girl seems familiar to him—but that he doesn’t know why. He again makes Thomas promise to tell him if he thinks of anything, and then says they now have to go see the girl. They go up to her room in the Homestead, where Clint, the Med-jack is watching over her.
Clint thinks the girl will wake up soon. He comments that she keeps talking in her coma, and that she keeps mentioning Thomas by name.
Thomas, thinking about the girl, focusing his thoughts, gets the sense that he feels something powerful for her, but that he doesn’t know what. He does, however, assure Newt that he believes he does know the girl, or that he did in his prior life. Newt encourages him to keep working on it, and as Thomas thinks, he hears her mind-voice for the first time, saying her own name in response to his wondering who she is.
Teresa. Her name is Teresa.
He doesn’t know what to make of hearing her mind-voice, wondering if he’s hallucinating or dreaming. He tells Newt, but neither know what to think, even when the girl then speaks Thomas’ name in his mind.
While Thomas and Newt try to grasp what’s happening, Teresa telepathically tells Thomas that they are the last people coming through to the Glade, that “it” has to end, and that they have to pass the Trials. She says she’s been sent to act as a trigger, and that her memories are fading even as she tries to communicate with Thomas. She again insists that everything has to change—and then insists that she and Thomas are to blame for the Glade and that they did this to the Gladers...and to themselves.
Thomas, desperate to escape her voice, flees out into the Maze.
Here another turning point has been offered, in a chapter filled with necessary details. Thomas has learned about the girl, but also learned about a talent that makes both he and Teresa different from the other Gladers. Just as Thomas was finding his place in Glader society, and had started to achieve his goal of becoming a Maze Runner, he’s presented with new information that will put that goal out of his reach forever.
Thomas runs for over an hour, before stopping and realizing he has to turn back or be trapped out in the Maze again for the night. On the run back he realizes that, even in his blind panic, he was apparently noting the turns and twists of his run, and that he’s finding his way back effortlessly. He realizes that Minho is right: soon Thomas will be the best of the best, the natural Keeper for the Runners.
He arrives safely back at the Glade, and sleeps for the night. In the morning he’s awakened by Chuck. He’s to get breakfast before reporting to the Slammer. Chuck lets him know that Newt has brought the Gladers up to date on both his punishment detail and his promotion to trainee Runner. Thomas also learns from Chuck that Gally has disappeared, and is presumed to have fled out into the Maze. Chuck states he doesn’t think Gally is dead, but that he’s instead hiding somewhere in the Glade, protected by his few friends. Together they head for the Slammer, with Thomas brooding over Gally and his fate.
This twenty-ninth chapter has shown how deeply Thomas was shaken by the events of the prior chapter, but has done so in a way that underlines that he is fundamentally different from his fellow Gladers, even the Maze Runners. His skills are not their skills, and his understanding exceeds theirs. He is a man apart, with only Teresa as his likely peer.
Thomas spends the day in the Slammer. Chuck visits, to keep Thomas company, and the two bond, with Chuck admitting his fears and tears on finding himself in the Glade, and his dreams of a real family. Thomas finds himself feeling responsibility toward Chuck, as though he were a younger brother who should be taken care of. Thomas promises to try to find a way home for Chuck, and return him to the family of his dreams.
The primary use of this, besides demonstrating Thomas’ good-faith willingness to take his punishment, and the community’s willingness to make that punishment reasonable, is to reconnect Thomas and Chuck. Much of the past few chapters has been focused on Thomas with other characters, or in the context of the Maze. Chuck, however, can’t fulfill his role as Thomas’ soft-spot if Thomas and he fail to bond, or the reader fails to care. The primary function of the chapter is thus to develop that bond and strengthen reader sympathy for both boys.
Alby, barely recovered from the Change, comes to release Thomas after the day in the Slammer. The two talk, and it’s clear that Alby remembers a fair amount of what was said the day before, and clearly recalls being forced to strangle himself. He is now forgetting the images he found in the change, and his evaluation of all this is that there is someone who does not want him to remember, or to talk. What he can recall he’s not willing to try to say, for fear of once again being forced to strangle himself.
He also makes it clear that he does remember where he came from, and that he’d rather die than go back.
There’s a celebratory dinner, and then Thomas returns to where he slept the day before, and settles for the night, thinking of his first Maze lessons the coming day.
The function of this sequence is primarily to underline Alby’s conflicts. He is afraid of what he remembers, and remembers enough to be sure the Glade is better than the world he came from. This becomes a major point down the line, and the groundwork for the actions to come lies here, and in the room with Alby strangling himself.
Minho comes to wake Thomas before sun-up. He ensures Thomas has the right clothing and equipment. In the process he explains that the Gladers can request certain things, like particular types of clothing, but that some requests are not filled. He takes Thomas to the Runners arsenal, helps him choose weapons for the day’s run. The two go to the Map Room, where the Runners’ maps of their daily explorations are stored. Thomas realizes that there’s years of maps stored, ready for analysis.
Thomas makes it clear that the Runners have been studying the maps for years now, comparing the sections of Maze to the prior day’s maps, but that they have never found any clue or answer. He also draws a quick sketch of the entire Glade and Maze: a tic-tac-toe board of nine squares arranged in three rows. The center square is the Glade, which is surrounded by eight more squares which form the Maze.
He explains that the walls move at night, but that no pattern has ever been identified. The Runners still map the sections of the Maze, though, hoping someday to determine if there is a key that will lead to their escape.
Much of this is simply setting up the groundwork for later developments. While the emotional elements of Minho and Thomas working together matter, the logical details of how the Glade, the Maze, and the Maze Runners all are arranged will matter more.
Out in the Maze Minho teaches Thomas the skills of the Maze Runner: how to remember his route, mark is path, pace himself. At a break they discuss how the “dead” Griever proved to be alive, and how it attacked Alby. The fact that it appeared dead at first, and that even after the attack it ran away from the two Gladers, remains one more piece in the puzzle of how the Maze reality is changing. They discuss the fact that no one knows who the Creators of the Maze are, or what they want.
While running the Maze Thomas notices a small plaque, half hidden by ivy. The plaque carries the words, “World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experimental Department.” Minho says no one knows what the words mean, but that the plaques are all over the Maze.
They reach the end of the run, the halfway point of the day’s hours, and turn back. Thomas wonders if anyone has stayed overnight to track the movements of the Walls. Minho reminding Thomas that no one, even the Runners, stays out in the Maze at night.
On returning Minho teaches Thomas how to map his run, to record the day’s arrangement of Walls in the Maze. At the end of the day he’s drifting into sleep when he gets another telepathic message from Teresa: “Tom, I just triggered the Ending.”
This proves to be the major turning point of the novel. The events that follow are set in motion by Teresa’s revelation, and by the consequences of her presence. She has been used by WICKED for their own purposes, and she acts as the first domino in a chain.
Thomas wakes to find that the Maze world has indeed changed. The previous illusion of a blue sky and sun have disappeared, replaced by slate gray, flat skies and a weak artificial light. The Gladers have gathered around the Box, awaiting the weekly delivery, all distressed by the obvious change to their world.
Thomas begins to wonder if this is what Teresa meant when she said she’d “triggered the Ending.” In the meantime he and Chuck discuss that this may mean that the reality of the Glade was all an artificial illusion, and that something may be broken that will simply be fixed, allowing them all to return to what is now normal to them.
Minho collects him to run the Maze again for the day, and in talking Thomas realizes that in spite of their conversation the previous day Minho is now considering Thomas’ suggestion that Runners stay out for the night to try to track the Wall movements as they happen.
While out running they find another still, non-moving Griever. Reluctant to approach it after what the previous one did to Alby, they attempt to watch it, but then attempt to detour around it, only to find it’s suddenly moved and gone. They track to the Cliff, and there find the Griever hurtling itself over the edge...and disappearing.
This chapter has confirmed what was first hinted at in the previous chapter. Teresa’s arrival is indeed proving to be the harbinger of change. Dashner has revealed that change through Thomas, Chuck, and Minho’s eyes.
Now very curious what happens when Grievers jump over the Cliff, Minho and Thomas collect stones and proceed to test the drop from the edge. They discover an invisible “hole” in the infinite gray of the space holding the Maze reality, into which the Grievers can drop and disappear, like having an invisible door out of the world. With many rocks Thomas and Minho succeed in developing a sense of the size and placement of this invisible door. They speculate that the effect is caused by some form of technological optical illusion, something “jacked up.” They name the invisible door the Griever Hole.
They complete their run, with Minho noting the ways the Walls had shifted during the night. They return to the Glade, and proceed to the Map Room, ready to draw their Maps just as usual before going to report to Alby and Newt. Minho explains some about the methods of analysis they use to try to find patterns in the Maps, and then they go to find Alby and Newt. Once with them, though, they learn that more changes have come to the Maze: the day’s delivery from the Box never arrived.
In spite of that they make their report on the Griever Hole, and the four speculate on whether they have a way to now keep Grievers out of the Maze by blocking their access from the Griever Hole. Before they can reach a firm conclusion, however, they discover that there is yet another change in the Maze world.
Teresa, the girl, has finally woken up completely. In his mind Thomas hears her, as she tells him that she’s forgetting her old memories, but that she knows that the Maze itself is a code.
Again Dashner is using Teresa as the catalyst of change. Her knowledge and information will alter how Thomas understands the world. The first shifts have begun, and Teresa is already shifting Thomas’ perception of reality.
Thomas doesn’t want to see Teresa, so while Newt goes up to her, Thomas slips away to hide at the edge of the Glade. Instead of escaping, though, he finds Teresa has found him. Talking, they establish that Teresa remembers a bit more about him than he is able to remember about her. Teresa can talk to him telepathically but she doesn’t really know how: she just knows she can.
Teresa remembers that they’re “smart,” that they’ve been used somehow, that they’re supposed to do something, and that she “triggered the Ending.” But she doesn’t know what any of that means, nor does she know more. She also doesn’t know what she meant when she told Thomas the Maze was a code. The one new piece of information she has is something she seems to have written on her arm: WICKED is good.
They’re just evaluating their chances of a return home when Newt arrives, hunting for Teresa. He doesn’t know how she slipped away from her Med-jack guards, or how she found Thomas’ hiding place. The Med-jack and Alby, too, arrive, and a confrontation begins, with Teresa refusing to be cowed and Ably, frustrated, trying to demand answers to the puzzle Teresa and Thomas represent. As they try to work out why he’s so frantic, he points out the time...
It’s after sunset, and the Glade doors, which protect the all from the dangers of the nighttime Maze, have not closed.
The failure of the Doors to close is obviously a clear indication that something profound has changed in the Maze, and that the change is dangerous. The fear of the Gladers as they realize they will have no protection from the forbidden nighttime Maze and its denizens adds energy and power to this entry into the final stages of the book. Things pick up speed, and the threats become greater and greater as the book moves along.
Alby has Teresa locked in the Slammer, partly from fear of what she may represent, and because she’s admitted she “triggered the ending,” but also to ensure her safety, from both the Grievers and the frightened residents of the Glade.
Thomas, upset that Teresa is being seen as the cause of the troubles, and sad she’s being taken away to the Slammer, struggles with his sense that he knows her, when she’s also still a stranger to him. He tries to speak with her telepathically, but gets no answer.
In the panic that follows the Builders, whose Keeper, Gally, is still missing, construct makeshift blockades to try to keep the Grievers out. Emergency arrangements are made to try to protect the remaining supplies of such things as food, batteries and flashlights, tools, weapons and more. The Gladers are going to sleep in the Homestead during the night, no matter how crowded it will be.
Thomas attempts to convince Newt that Teresa should be released. He’s sure she can help in some way, and the words on the plaque in the Maze are bothering him. He’s concluded that the entire Maze is an experiment, and that the experiment is intended to end: that Teresa is a clue, or a tool they can use, but not the actual cause of their problems.
Newt insists that, for at least this first night, Teresa can stay in the Slammer. He adds that Alby’s the one who’s most against releasing Teresa, and that he’s not too comfortable about Thomas, either.
Thomas goes to join Teresa at the slammer, as Chuck had joined him. The two talk about the fact that the Maze must have a meaning. Teresa shows more knowledge that could be expected if she were completely mind-wiped, but doesn’t know how she knows things like the existence of the Grievers.
Thomas regrets that he can’t speak to her telepathically as she speaks to him. She assures him it will come back to him.
Night comes to the Glade.
Teresa, the herald of change, becomes the symbol of that change to Alby and others. They do not care if she actually caused the change by intent, or was merely used as a trigger. It is enough to know her arrival and her own words suggest that the looming threats are her “fault.” Dashner has done a good job of presenting two truths. For Alby and those afraid of the changes ahead, it is only expedient to imprison the perceived cause of that threat. However Thomas can recognize that there is a difference between being morally a cause of problems, and merely being a trigger, or a messenger.
Thomas, Minho, Newt, and Alby are in the same room of the Homestead for the night. Together they make plans for how to proceed. The Runners will go out and stay out for longer stretches of time, trying to observe the movement of the walls. Teams will be assembled to review and analyse the maps in the Map Room. Newt, in spite of his old injuries, offers to help the Runners explore the Maze. Alby is resentful throughout the conversation, at last admitting that he’s still messed up by the Change, and that he shouldn’t be the one making the choices. He volunteers to be in charge of the Maps, rather than place himself in the decision-making chain. This becomes vital at a later point in the narrative. Against the advice of the others, Alby leaves the conversation to go look after the Maps.
The night is stressful, with the Homestead crowded and the Gladers restless and afraid. As things escalate a Griever enters the compound and climbs the Homestead, coming to a stop outside the window of Thomas’ shared room. As things become ever more tense the door of the room opens, and Gally enters.
Dashner is bringing the problems home, now, pressing harder and harder on the Gladers and Thomas. The dangers are mounting, Gally’s voice of doom arrives. Again, this all serves to increase the energy and add momentum as the book becomes more suspenseful.
Gally, now half mad, proceeds to spout a mix of predictions and threats. He announces the Grievers are going to kill one person a night until they’re all dead. He states that the Maze can’t be solved, and was not meant to be solved. He again says the Grievers will kill only one person a night, and then adds “their stupid Variables.” This is the first hint how much Gally has recovered from the previous world.
He continues to rage, fighting with and insulting Newt, telling Thomas he “knows who” Thomas is, but no longer cares. This is one of Dashner’s less successful scenes, with the mysterious, arbitrary nature of what Gally remembers and says feeling somewhat forced. In the midst of the fight Gally rips the boards blocking the window open, and lets in the Griever.
In a last desperate rant Gally tells Thomas that he shouldn’t want to go back, and throws himself onto the Griever, becoming embedded in its oozy, blubbery surface. The Griever then departs, disappearing into the Maze...with Minho following behind, determined to track it to its destination.
Dashner has used Gally, with his prophecies and his apparent death, to set limits on the possibility of simply slipping through a rough stage in the history of the Maze and the Glade. The implication is that the Creators are going to apply pressure until the Gladers are either all dead, or have found a solution to the problem of their incarceration.
The Glade is in chaos, and Thomas is trying to convince Newt to let him go out after Minho, when the Keeper of the Runners returns, announcing he had only been confirming that the Griever was going to the Cliff and the Griever Hole. Now that this is certain, he’s returned to report.
But in the midst of their discussion Newt points out that the Map Room has been broken into , and that smoke is coming from the doors: the map trunks have been burned. Thomas realizes that Newt and Minho are hiding some secret related to the burning of the trunks, but his primary concern is to check on Teresa.
He’s amazed to find she’s slept through the entire chaos. He fills her in, giving her a summary of the Griever, Gally’s arrival and apparent death, the Griever’s flight into the Maze and to the Cliff. The two talk about what the Maze could mean. In a somewhat poorly handled “late remembrance,” Thomas only at the last minute recalls that the maps have apparently been burned.
In this sequence Dashner has presented Teresa and Thomas as a functioning team, and has presented them with a challenge in the form of the burned maps. However one weakness of the novel is that Dashner writes Thomas as forgetting that the maps are burned. The event is too recent, too critical to the Maze Runners and the Gladers, and too obviously a problem for it to be remotely believable that Thomas would forget so easily and so completely. Dashner has handled many things well, but this bit denies the basic intelligence of the central character.
Thomas leaves Teresa to find out of any of the Maps survived. He finds the Newt and Minho evaluating the wreckage, the trunks clearly gutted, and Alby lying injured on the floor of the Map Room. He’s dismayed, and doesn’t understand Newt and Minho are not more upset than they are.
Thomas, relieved, once again argues for Teresa to be released and put in charge of Map analysis. After a prolonged argument over the wisdom of releasing the girl who “triggered the Ending,” Thomas wins, and Teresa is let out of the Slammer.Thomas and Teresa explain their theories about the Maze as a code, and proceed to make plans to break the code. Thomas wants to know if there are any maps remaining unburned, or if the Runners can recreate their maps. Newt and Minho explain that they saved the maps, hiding them in a secret cupboard of the Armory. They were acting on Alby’s Change-mad insistence than they protect the maps.
This is an interesting twist. Alby is divided in his wishes, but his final demand was to save the maps. This proves to be an ironic detail, and very much in keeping with Alby’s mixed motives and drives.
The four retrieve the maps, and proceed to make further plans for their analysis. The Runners take long runs out to the Maze at night to try to observe the working of the Walls. The group begins to experiment with ways to manipulate the map images to make them easier to evaluate, using semi-transparent wax-paper to allow them to stack up an entire day’s recordings of all the sections. Thomas has realized that while the Runners have always compared a section map to the prior day’s section map, they never gathered the maps up and attempted to see whether, together, a day’s sections might form a layered image.
Once they start they quickly realize that Thomas is right: the image of a letter F clearly resolves when the maps are stacked together.
This is a very basic mystery-style of chapter. The structure is straightforward and goal-oriented. The solution to the Maze code is fairly easy, but not embarrassingly so in a Young Adult title. The biggest problem is that in solving the code, the kids are solving the Maze itself, and the Maze is supposedly not supposed to be solvable. This contradictory use of the word “solve” is a weak point in the book. The fact that the solution isn’t linear or cartographic, in that the kids don’t have to figure out how to thread the Maze to escape, does not alter the fact that the Maze was still a puzzle. The kids have solved the puzzle, but only with a direct and heavy-handed hint from the Creators, by way of Teresa.
Having started their analysis, the team quickly finds a set of words spelled out over time. But they have no idea how many words they’ll find from the years of maps, nor what the words may mean.
Teresa takes over the map project. Thomas and Minho and the other Runners prepare to explore the Maze for further information.
Chuck comes to see them off, clearly afraid to join them out in the Maze, but wishing he could contribute somehow. He, Thomas, and Minho tease each other. Male bonding occurs, and Dashner makes it still more clear that Chuck is intended to be seen as Thomas’ surrogate kid brother.
Out in the Maze Minho and Thomas quickly realize that the Walls have not moved since the night before: one more concern among the many changes coming to the world of the Maze.
For the first time Thomas manages initiate a conversation with Teresa telepathically, allowing the two to remain in contact while Thomas is away. Teresa discusses her theory that their telepathic abilities are not natural, but something that’s been done to them by the Creators. The two speculate on their past lives, but still have no idea of how they know each other, or what their purpose is.
When the connection fades, Thomas doesn’t tell Minho about the link, for fear it will be one more thing for Minho and the others to suspect or reject.
At the time the Doors would normally close Thomas and Minho start looking for Grievers. They see a number of the monsters. None attack, and all appear to be fleeing. Minho and Thomas both feel that the Creators are toying with them, trying to force them to accept that the experiment must be concluded so they will take action accordingly.
The main business of the chapter is in establishing the telepathic link between Thomas and Teresa. It moves the plot forward by giving them a useful shared skill and by strengthening their relationship while further separating them even from allies like Minho. The speculation regarding the manipulation isn’t unwelcome, but is sufficiently obvious as to be unnecessary.
Returning to the Glade, Thomas and Minho find that the Grievers have again visited the Glade. As Gally predicted, the creatures have taken one more Glader, a young man named Adam. Minho, reviewing the situation, decides he’s giving up: there’s no exit, no solution, and he’s done.
Teresa contacts Thomas telepathically, saying they’ve solved the code. Thomas goes down to the workroom, where Teresa, Newt, and their team show the words they’ve generated from the maps. There are six words: FLOAT, CATCH, BLEED, DEATH, STIFF, and PUSH. They all fail to notice that the final word differs from the previous five, containing only four letters.
Thomas has a brainstorm, and realizes the words could be passwords and that the passwords may be entered into a computer, releasing the kids from the experiment room. He believes that the computer is most likely to be found down the Griever Hole, where the Grievers disappear. He does not, however, tell his friends, feeling he needs more proof...nor does Dashner tell the reader, in a rather poorly constructed boondoggle attempting to offer hope while withholding Thomas’ actual insight.
Instead of discussing his idea, Thomas decides he’s got to intentionally get himself stung by a Griever and go through the Change to regain some of his memories.
Thomas avoids his fellow Gladers the next day, and waits till the Grievers come at night to take another victim. After a harried chase he intercepts the Griever, not to save the victim, but to ensure he’s stung. Not surprisingly, no one is very happy with him afterward. But he is stung, and has achieved his objective.
Again, this is rather heavy-handed writing. The refusal to explain Thomas’ plan in the previous chapter was very obvious, and the decision to be stung to gain further memories is not needed. The characters have enough evidence and face enough direct pressure to remove the need for such a risky and erratic attempt. The needs of the community rule out Thomas’ decision to take that risk without explaining or consulting with the others.
This chapter simply confirms that Thomas goes through the Change, with some psychotropic imagery, and no real revelations. Dashner chooses to withhold any hard clues that might prove useful to the reader at a later time. There’s some nice funnel-cloud description, though.
Thomas comes to, having recovered fragmentary memories of his past. He knows that the Maze can’t be solved as an ordinary puzzle, that his guess about using the Griever Hole to open a door into the Real World is correct, and that the only way to accomplish what needs to be done will probably lead to many deaths.
He’s greeted by Chuck, who updates him on the three days he’s been going through the Change. Three boys have been lost to the Grievers, including Zart, the Keeper of the Gardens. Thomas knows why one boy has to die a day, but Dashner fails to tell the reader, suggesting only that the answer is grim. Thomas says a Gathering is needed, and sends Chuck to alert the Gladers.
Teresa and Thomas talk telepathically. In a long tease Dashner fails to tell us anything he’s not told us already. He explains that Thomas has a plan, but very obviously refuses to tell the reader what it is.
Newt arrives, and once again Thomas indicates that a Gathering is needed.
These resolving transitions in the novel among the worst of Dashner’s work, in terms of technical finesse. There are few times a writer can get away with the equivalent of saying to the reader, “I have a secret and I’m not going to tell you!” Unfortunately Dashner uses that sort of overt blend of hinting while withholding several times in these later chapters.
The Keepers gather. Teresa is excluded from the meeting, irritating Thomas. Thomas presents a summary of what he believes he understands.
The Creators are testing them, but the Maze itself is not the test. The test is whether they can think outside the box and escape from the Maze by another method.
The Gladers are all highly intelligent orphans collected and raised by the Creators as part of a larger project. None of them have families any longer, if they ever really did. Their only names are project names; Alby is named after Albert Einstein, Newt after Sir Isaac Newton, and Thomas is named after Thomas Edison.
The Creators wiped the memories of the kids before they were introduced to the Maze. The aim of the experiment was to see how the children dealt with an insoluble problem and a range of variable conditions. But the key point is that the core problem of the Maze, the most obvious puzzle available, cannot be solved. It’s a puzzle with no answer, like a Rubik’s cube with too many colors to ever form single-colored sides.
The central challenge demands perseverance, and tests whether the Gladers will give up. But the final question is whether they will find a solution outside the parameters of the Maze itself.
The puzzle of the codewords Teresa and her team have sorted out is, indeed, a matter of passwords that will open a door back to the real world.
As said previously, the problem with this is that it’s just a different way of using the Maze as a puzzle: a different sort of solution, but still a puzzle solution with embedded clues permitting escape. This is a serious structural flaw in Dashner’s premise, but not so bad as to ruin the story for many readers.
Thomas goes on to explain that he and Teresa are slightly different from the other Gladers, and that they’ve been used to help design the Maze as well as enter it and take part. This is apparently against their will. But as a result of their difference, Thomas knows about the code words, their use, and the route to escape.
The hope is that the Gladers can come together, pass through the Maze, face the Grievers, risk being attacked along the way, dive through the invisible Griever hole, enter the passwords, and return to the original world outside the experiment of the Maze.
At this point the novel switches over to what can only be called video-game mode for a period. The obstacles that must be faced and overcome resemble a game course to a very high degree.
At this point Alby objects. He argues that Thomas and Teresa are not to be trusted, that the risks are too high, and, finally, that his own memories tell him that the world outside the Maze is too horrible to return to.
He then breaks down and admits that he’s the one who burned the maps. He did it out of the conviction that the Maze must never be solved, that the Gladers must never return to the real world. He remembers some of the details of the Flare, and of the aftermath, and his conviction is that the world remaining is a nightmare he can’t bear they return to...bad enough that even slow death is better.
He resigns himself, though, to the fact that they’ll make their choices on their own.
The remaining Keepers debate, and Thomas tells them the final details of the plan, including the fact that at least one more sacrificial child will probably die, killed by the Grievers...and maybe far more than one.
The only real hope he can offer the Keepers that the Creators don’t benefit if all the Gladers die: they need survivors. Therefore Thomas believes at least some of them can endure and live. In the meantime he feels one person should act as the decoy sacrifice, the one person they’re sure probably has to die. Thomas volunteers.
The most interesting detail in the chapter is the return to the question of who burned the maps, and why. It adds another intriguing layer to Alby. He has such a divided mind, on the one hand sabotaging the maps, but at the same time having given the command that saved the maps. His blended personality will be illustrated again later. In that respect this serves as good foreshadowing.
Thomas’ desire to be the sacrificial goat, however, fails to be admirable or convincing. The reaction of the Keepers in the following chapter is very welcome. Heroes who keep throwing themselves into danger deserve the occasional kick in the pants. Having already gone out the Doors to rescue Minho and Alby, and having gotten himself stung to regain his memories, Thomas was not entitled to yet another melodramatic sacrifice.
Thomas gets all his logic kicked into a cocked hat by the annoyed Keepers, who proceed to evict him from the Gather so that they can talk without him in the middle of their discussion. Newt in particular is less than delighted with Thomas’ suicidal will to sacrifice himself. He does, however, promise to go back and try to convince the others to back the overall plan. He then determines that if they’re going to do it, they should do it that night.
Thomas and Teresa discuss the plan telepathically. Neither is very happy about it. Teresa joins Thomas by the Box, and the two talk further, with Thomas describing the meeting. The two are committed to try to go through the Griever’s Hole, if at all possible.
The Council unanimously backs the majority of the plan. Their goal is to leave that night. The other Gladers will be told, and given a chance to come along or stay behind. Newt isn’t sure whether Alby will decide to go or stay. Newt will be in charge of making arrangements and leading the group.
The majority of the Gladers decide to go. Preparations are made, providing enough equipment for the group, and attempting to consolidate resources for those remaining behind. The decision has not been made who will act as a sacrifice to placate the Grievers and give them their one death per day.
Thomas and Teresa take time to plan their own actions for when they’re in the Hole and trying to enter the passwords. As the only telepaths and the only ones with even partial memories of this part of their past, they feel they need to be the point men in this part of the plan. They make sure that Minho and Newt will have the information, also, in case something prevents Thomas and Teresa from doing the job.
Rather late in the day Thomas figures out that the word WICKED, printed on the Beetle Blades, the spy lizards, and written on Teresa’s arm (WICKED is good), is the acronym for World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experimental Department. One suspects the readers will have worked that detail out far sooner than Thomas. This is another of the klutzier bit of writing in the novel. Puzzles that are comparatively simple are solved rather late by a character who should know better.
The Gladers share a final meal. Thomas is forced to admit he doesn’t know who Chuck is named after, though he guesses it might be Charles Darwin. Chuck talks about the odds of living, and the general hope that the Grievers will only take one or two of them—a token sacrifice compared to all of them being picked off, one per night, until no one is left.
Thomas swears again to get Chuck back to his family. The genre savvy reader should be cringing and making funeral arrangements by now, as Chuck is clearly not long for this world.
There are forty-one in the group planning on leaving. Minho gives a pep talk: “Be careful, [...] Don’t die.”
They all head out. The elderly reader may hear the theme music to “The Bridge Over the River Kwai” whistling in the back of his brain.
The band of Gladers proceed to run the Maze, headed for the Cliff and the Griever Hole. Thomas and Teresa banter telepathically.
Things appear to be progressing smoothly, until the group arrives at the Cliff. Then they realize they’re surrounded by many Grievers and that there are Grievers blocking access to the Cliff. The group will have to fight a way through so that Thomas, Teresa, and their immediate team can try to go into the Griever Hole and unlock the door with the passwords.
Alby, who has come along, chooses to walk into the massed Grievers, hoping he will be the only death needed. The Grievers swarm over him, cutting him to shreds.
The other Gladers soon find that one sacrifice was not sufficient. After a short pause, the Grievers rally and attack again.
As previously, Alby’s divided nature is illustrated and used skillfully in this sequence. The effort Dashner invested in Alby shows to good effect. The prior foreshadowing, Alby’s passionate desire not to return, the slight taint of betrayal mixed with solid loyalty all come together to make Alby’s sacrifice logical, sad, but ultimately inevitable.
Minho and Newt lead the Gladers in a charge against the Grievers, hoping to clear a path for Thomas and Teresa, and Chuck. Chuck tries join the charge, but is so clearly terrified that Thomas holds him back.
Running through the battle is like running the gantlet, with danger on all sides. Thomas and Teresa are both injured in the passage, but they make it past the Grievers. Then they must leap out into empty space, aiming for the invisible Griever’s Hole.
First Teresa, then Chuck, and then Thomas all successfully make the leap.
They all land in the dark. Teresa turns on her flashlight and they find themselves at the bottom of a stone cylinder. They make their way to the computer, and Teresa begins to enter the passwords. As she types a Griever leaps in after them. Thomas defends Chuck and Teresa while Teresa continues to enter the passwords.
Thomas wins against the Griever by turning its own automated weapon against it. Teresa, however, has found that the computer is not letting her enter the last of the code words. Why? Because as many readers will have already suspected, the final word, PUSH, which failed to match the five-letter pattern of the other codewords, is into a password, but an instruction.
After a panicked pause, Chuck finds a button on the floor, just as more Grievers come piling in. Above the button are the words, “Kill the Maze.”
They push the button, the Maze shuts down, and a tunnel opens to the world beyond.
This would usually signal the end of the story. The Maze Runner, however, is the first book of a dystopic science fantasy series, and things have to start going wrong again. The laws of freestanding novels don’t apply to sections of a series, where each apparent resolution has to prepare the way for the next novel.
The Grievers shut down. Over half the Gladers are dead in the battle. The surviving Gladers regroup in the cylinder and proceed with Thomas, Teresa, and Chuck into the now open tunnel.
There’s a long amusement park style of slide down from the tunnel to a big underground chamber filled with computers and tech equipment. There are pods of some sort at the side of the room. Scientists behind plate glass are observing the Gladers. Thomas realizes that these are the Creators.
The Gladers watch the Creators. The Creators watch the Gladers. Eventually two people walk into the room: A woman dressed in black pants and a white shirt, with WICKED on one pocket in blue, and a boy in a hoody, face covered. Thomas thinks he knows the woman, but can’t say how.
The woman greets them as though they were adult colleagues she’s bringing up to date on the state of an experiment. As she talks, the boy in the hoody raises his head, and Thomas and the others realize he’s Gally—alive, if distressed and in tears.
There is a confrontation, between the woman, Minho, and Newt, as the Gladers try to come to terms with Gally’s presence. The woman indicates there’s “one more Variable” that has to be put into play.
Gally, anguished, manages to declare he’s being controlled. Then, with movements similar to those of Alby when he tried to strangle himself, Gally retrieves a knife from behind his back and throws it at Thomas.
Chuck throws himself between Thomas and the knife. He falls, bleeding, and he dies in Thomas’ arms. His last request is that Thomas find his mother and tell her what happened.
Thomas goes berserk and attempts to bludgeon Gally to death. He’s hauled away by Minho and Newt. Teresa embraces Thomas, and they mourn.
Those who read often will have recognized previously that Chuck was doomed. Where Dashner handled Alby and Alby’s sacrifice well and with at least some subtlety, Chuck’s death conforms to common stereotype without any real overriding purpose beyond providing Thomas with a hostage to fortune. For some it will be a jarring element in the experience of reading the book. Many others, however, will be able to take it as it comes, and accept the death as integral to Thomas’ growth and development.
The Gladers, including Thomas, calm down. The woman from WICKED assures them calmly that everything happens for a purpose. Just as Thomas is attempting to frame a question, the dramatic hooks to carry the reader into the next novel come crashing into the room.
A small mob of apparent rebels of some sort sweep in. The woman from WICKED is tackled, then executed. The rebels gather up the kids, and instruct them to run “like your life depends on it.” The rebels sweep out in a blaze of guns, the stunned and frightened Gladers with them.
They race through the building, and find their way outdoors to a bus. As everyone loads up Thomas witnesses what appears to be a sick, addled old woman ranting at them all, screaming that someone is going to save everyone from the Flare.
The Gladers and rebels climb into the bus. As the bus pulls out, the madwoman races in front, waving and shrieking. The bus runs her over. The bus drives away, with the surviving twenty-odd Gladers inside.
This is another heavy bit of technical force. The rebels are almost comic in their timing, and the point of throwing the old woman under the bus seems almost too hokey. It does, however, get Dashner the necessary link to move the characters into a new scenario in preparation for the following story.
The bus drives for an hour or two taking them through what appear to be dilapidated towns, past at least one mob of what appear to be diseased survivors of a catastrophe, ill, injured and covered with sores. The mob attempts to swamp the bus...but the bus never stops, and they proceed onward.
Thomas finally asks a woman across from him—one of the rebel band—what is going on. The woman suggests that in time their memories might return, but in the meantime she tells them a story of a world torn apart by the arrival of atypical solar flares. The Flares burn out technology, kill millions, and wreck havoc on the ecosystem. Afterward comes a sickness, that proceeds out of South America and eventually spreads through the world. The illness is called the Flare, and treatments are reserved only for the very rich...or for a rumored number in a secret place rumored to lie in the Andes. The Flare causes mental breakdowns, driving its sufferers mad.
According to the rebel, Thomas, Teresa, and all the children of the Glade are orphans selected to find the few minds capable of helping develop a cure for the Flare. The entire experience of the Maze was artificial, part of a vast experiment in mental formation.
The rebels are fighters against WICKED, determined to free the children from the inhuman manipulations of the research group. They hope the children will join them.
Thomas and Teresa demure, too tired to make a decision.
At the end of the trip Thomas and the others are ushered into a dormitory building. It’s not fancy, but it’s bright, comfortable, and better than anything the children knew in the grim reality of the Glade. The children are welcomed by pleasant staff. The Gladers are happy, but in shock...and ready to accept the miracle of a secure, comfortable haven without yet asking too many questions.
The Gladers are assigned bunks. Teresa is given a room of her own. Minho and Thomas discuss whether they’re now safe, and decide that they are. Thomas goes to bed—but proceeds to have a long private telepathic conversation with Teresa, as they try to cope with the aftermath of their escape. Teresa tries to absolve Thomas of his guilt over failing to save Chuck. They prepare for a new day.
Hooks are hinted at that there is definitely more to come.
And, of course, the ultimate hook is set in the epilogue, in the form of a memo from one Ava Paige, of WICKED, assessing the outcome of the experiment so far. It is made clear within sentences that the entire ending, with the murder of the woman from WICKED and the rescue by the rebels was a set-up. Thomas and his friends are fully as much in the hands of WICKED as they ever were, merely being brought into a new level of experiment.
Ava Paige stresses the fact that WICKED is good, and that in time the children will recall what has been done to them previously, and more importantly why it has been done. She requests evaluations from her staff...and makes it clear that there’s another group being experimented on, also.
Thus Dashner ends on a major gotcha, presenting a hook many readers will find too alluring to pass up. As the series now extends to five books—a full trilogy, a prequel, and an interim books slipping between volumes one and two—it’s safe to say the hooks have done their jobs, and the readers have bitten down hard.
Via Edie Stone, Creative Commons