The Maze Runner

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Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Delacorte Press edition of The Maze Runner published in 2009.
Chapter 1 Quotes

And yet he didn’t know where he came from, or how he’d gotten inside the dark lift, or who his parents were. He didn’t even know his last name. Images of people flashed across his mind, but there was no recognition, their faces replaced with haunted smears of color. He couldn’t think of one person he knew, or recall a single conversation.

Related Characters: Thomas
Page Number: 2
Explanation and Analysis:

As the novel begins, we're introduced to Thomas. At the same time, in a way, Thomas is being introduced to himself. He's been thrown into a strange place, with no memories of who he is or where he comes from.

The novel uses Thomas--a character without a past, just a present--to pose questions about what makes a person a person. The fact that Thomas has lost his memories might suggest that he's a "blank slate," at the mercy of his environment as he grows up. And yet, as we'll come to see, Thomas does remember some things from his old life; he's developed instincts and a personality, both of which have survived the memories that shaped them.


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Chapter 3 Quotes

His memory loss was strange. He mostly remembered the workings of the world—but emptied of specifics, faces, names. Like a book completely intact but missing one word in every dozen, making it a miserable and confusing read. He didn’t even know his age.

Related Characters: Thomas
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, the novel explores Thomas's memory loss in more detail. Thomas has had his memory wiped, but he remembers some basic things about the world. He still knows how to talk, walk, move, think, etc, And yet Thomas has lost all the specifics of his life--he'll spend most of the novel filling in the details. On one level, this makes Dashner's job easier--he doesn't have to show Thomas learning language or discovering how to interact with others--and it also suggests that Thomas does have a specific past, one that will presumably be revealed at some point.

The passage reminds us that the novel is a coming-of-age story, albeit with a sci-fi twist. Thomas is a young man, but because he has no memories, he can't learn from his experiences grow into a man; without a past, he's locked in the present. Thomas will have to remake himself, reinventing his own personality.

Chapter 6 Quotes

“Out there’s the Maze,” Newt whispered, eyes wide as if in a trance. “Everything we do—our whole life, Greenie—revolves around the Maze. Every lovin’ second of every lovin’ day we spend in honor of the Maze, tryin’ to solve somethin’ that’s not shown us it has a bloody solution, ya know? And we want to show ya why it’s not to be messed with. Show ya why them buggin’ walls close shut every night. Show ya why you should never, never find your butt out there.”

Related Characters: Newt (speaker), Thomas
Related Symbols: The Maze
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we learn more about the Maze, the most important symbol in the novel. Thomas is gradually adjusting to his new life: a fellow youth, Newt, explains to him that the Maze is at the center of their lives. The maze is a sinister structure, as Newt is about to show Thomas: it contains the Grievers, dangerous, nocturnal beings that can attack Thomas and his peers.

It's been suggested that the Maze and the Grievers are symbols of the world of adolescence and young adulthood (they're at their most dangerous during the nighttime, not unlike certain teenagers, and they involve a passage beyond the idyllic, simpler world of the Glade). Taken as a symbol of the future, the Maze stands as an intimidating yet inevitable part of Thomas's life: just as he must inevitably grow up, he must inevitably face the mysteries of the Maze.

Chapter 8 Quotes

Newt looked down in the Box one more time, then faced the crowd, gravely. “It’s a girl,” he said. Everyone started talking at once; Thomas only caught pieces here and there. “A girl?” “I got dibs!” “What’s she look like?” “How old is she?”

Related Characters: Newt (speaker), Thomas, Teresa
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we're introduced to Teresa, a girl who's been sent up into the world of the maze. The boys in Thomas's community are excited by the prospects of having a girl in their group--they've only ever been sent boys as new members. Notice that Newt cries out, "It's a girl," the phrase usually associated with a birth. Newt's outburst emphasizes that emerging from the elevator and into the Glade is itself a kind of birth--a rebirth, allowing the characters to discover their own personalities or possibly create new ones. (Especially since none of them have memories of their past lives.) Notice also that the boys clearly have sexual needs, and seem to think of Teresa is strictly sexual terms. The overall "vibe" of Thomas's community is that of a middle school or high school, full of immature teenagers.

Chapter 9 Quotes

“Think about it. Our memories are wiped. We live inside a place that seems to have no way out, surrounded by bloodthirsty monster-guards. Doesn’t that sound like a prison to you?” As he said it out loud, it sounded more and more possible. Nausea trickled into his chest.

Related Characters: Thomas (speaker), Chuck
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

As Thomas spends more time in his new home, he comes up with more theories for why he's there. Thomas has no memories of the past, so his only option is to try to "fill in" the past with theories and educated guesses. Here, Thomas guesses that he's been sent to his new home because he's some kind of criminal--he and his new peers are being punished for their crimes.

It's interesting that Thomas immediately assumes that he's somehow "guilty"--because he's so unsure of his own identity, he assumes he's being punished for something. Thomas lacks a certain confidence in his own abilities and his own goodness. Thomas's struggle to understand his new environment parallels his struggle to grow into an adult--i.e., to find a stable identity for himself.

Chapter 13 Quotes

“This ain’t got nothin’ to do with no hate or like or love or friends or anything. All we care about is surviving. Drop your sissy side and start using that shuck brain if you got one.”

Related Characters: Alby (speaker), Thomas
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:

Alby, the leader of the Gladers, is a tough young man. He understands that life among the Gladers is about living or dying, nothing else. Because of their isolation and the constant danger in their environment, the Gladers needs to be on their guard--they can't give in to their innate sense of sympathy (or so they assume). Alby's job is to keep his followers, including Thomas, healthy and sane--he's stern with them, and some of the rules he enforces seem cruel, but supposedly he only acts this way because he wants them to survive.

Alby's speech suggests that he sees maturity as a somber, no-nonsense affair. Being a mature person means being tough, strong, and never sympathetic--it's all about upholding law and order. These ideas will be challenged throughout the book, however.

It's also worth noting that in this all-male group, anything seen as feminine or "sissy" is considered weak or shameful. Once again the Glade resembles a kind of harsh high school environment.

Chapter 14 Quotes

Alby spoke in a loud, almost ceremonious voice, looking at no one and everyone at the same time. “Ben of the Builders, you’ve been sentenced to Banishment for the attempted murder of Thomas the Newbie. The Keepers have spoken, and their word ain’t changing. And you ain’t coming back. Ever.”

Related Characters: Alby (speaker), Thomas, Ben
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Alby punishes Ben--who's pleading temporary insanity, i.e., the "Changing"--for attempting to kill Thomas. Ben probably doesn't deserve such a harsh punishment--he wasn't in his right mind when he attacked Thomas, and has shown himself to be valuable to the Gladers in other ways, too. Furthermore, he's begged for forgiveness and appealed to the other boys' sympathies. Yet Alby is so insistent on procedure and ceremony that he doles out a harsh punishment to Ben, whether it's just or not. Alby believes that his job is to maintain safety and unity among his followers--the best way to do so, he thinks, is by harshly punishing anyone who steps out of line. There's a constant sense of danger among the Gladers, but not just because of the Maze--Alby himself is a dangerous person, and the kind of rigid, conformist mentality that allows for cruel punishments like this can easily lead to other atrocities.

Chapter 15 Quotes

“Order,” Newt continued. “Order. You say that bloody word over and over in your shuck head. Reason we’re all sane around here is ’cause we work our butts off and maintain order. Order’s the reason we put Ben out—can’t very well have loonies runnin’ around tryin’ to kill people, now can we? Order. Last thing we need is you screwin’ that up.”

Related Characters: Newt (speaker), Thomas, Ben
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

The Gladers operate on a system of strict order--everyone has to do their part or risk banishment, which is the same as death. Newt is irritated when Thomas--still new to the way things work--complains that he finds his duties menial and boring, and he wants to become a Maze Runner. Newt sees this kind of ambition and individualism as dangerous, so he warns Thomas to devote himself to "order." For Newt, living in the Glade means working hard and accepting one's place.

One reason that Newt isn't sympathetic to Thomas is that he's been among the Gladers for longer than Thomas. When Thomas points out that it may not have been right to banishment Ben, Newt dismisses Thomas's concerns. The Gladers don't really believe in independence or mercy--they believe in work and order, and nothing else.

Chapter 17 Quotes

“You don’t understand, shuck-face! You don’t know anything, and you’re just making it worse by trying to have hope! We’re dead, you hear me? Dead!”

Related Characters: Minho (speaker), Thomas
Related Symbols: The Maze
Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

Thomas, Alby, and Minho have all been trapped in the Maze overnight. Thomas, who's new to the Maze, suggests that they try to escape from the prison of the Maze by climbing vines to safety. Minho, who's more experienced with the Maze than Thomas, rejects Thomas's suggestions as futile. Moreover, Minho gets angry with Thomas for being so optimistic about their chances of survival--his first instinct is to give up altogether.

The scene is an early sign that the Gladers' way of doing things simply doesn't work. Thomas is new to the Gladers, so he doesn't buy into their depressing outlook on life and work. Because he's optimistic, Thomas looks for a way out, trying his hardest to protect himself and his friends. Minho, on the other hand, gives up and (immediately afterwards) runs away.

Chapter 18 Quotes

Thomas rocked back on his heels, then ran his arm across his forehead, wiping away the sweat. And at that moment, in the space of only a few seconds, he learned a lot about himself. About the Thomas that was before. He couldn’t leave a friend to die.

Related Characters: Thomas
Related Symbols: The Maze
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

Trapped inside the Maze with Alby, Thomas refuses to give up on his peers. While the cowardly, selfish Minho runs away in a vain attempt to save himself, Thomas tries his best to save other people, as well as himself.

It's interesting that the passage describes Thomas as remembering his old self--the self that had been wiped away, along with his memories. In times of crisis, Thomas behaves instinctively--in other words, he defaults to his old behaviors. Thomas's memory is stronger than we'd given it credit for; there are certain things about his personality that trauma and amnesia can't erase, and they come out in scenes like this one, when Thomas is surrounded by danger.

Chapter 23 Quotes

“Are they changed because they want to go back to their old life, or is it because they’re so depressed at realizing their old life was no better than what we have now?”

Related Characters: Thomas (speaker), Alby, Newt
Related Symbols: The Changing
Page Number: 149
Explanation and Analysis:

Here Thomas sits with Newt and discusses the Changing, the mysterious mental transformation that Alby is now undergoing as he recovers from the Grievers' venom. Newt explains that the Changing can be intensely painful for some people--during the Changing, Gladers see flashes of their old lives, and then have to return to their present-day existences outside in the Glade. Newt takes the position that the Changing is depressing because Gladers get to remember the past, but then have to go back to their current lives, which are harder and sadder than their past lives. Thomas, however, suggests that the Changing is so traumatic because it illustrates that the Gladers never had a happy life--their pasts are no better than their presents.

The passage corresponds to two views about human development. If the Changing symbolizes puberty and maturity, then Newt is arguing that people are innately good and innocent--and they lose their innocence during puberty. Thomas, however, suggests that there is innate goodness, or an innate lack of goodness--childhood is no happier or better than adulthood.

Chapter 26 Quotes

“I didn’t do anything wrong. All I know is I saw two people struggling to get inside these walls and they couldn’t make it. To ignore that because of some stupid rule seemed selfish, cowardly, and...well, stupid. If you want to throw me in jail for trying to save someone’s life, then go ahead. Next time I promise I’ll point at them and laugh, then go eat some of Frypan’s dinner.”

Related Characters: Thomas (speaker), Alby, Newt, Frypan
Related Symbols: The Maze
Page Number: 166
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Thomas negotiates with his fellow Gladers. Thomas has saved the lives of Minho and Alby while they were in the Maze--but in the process, he's broken the rules, venturing into the Maze. A trial is held for Thomas, to determine whether he should be punished for breaking the rules or praised for helping his peers.

The trial illustrates the basic tension between the Gladers: those who believe in rules and order, and those who believe in right and wrong. Thomas defends himself by saying that protecting Alby and Minho was the "right" thing to do--he doesn't deny that he broke the rules, but he questions whether such rules are really worth following in such a situation. Notice that Thomas also says that saving Alby and Minho was the practical thing to do--had he followed the rules, his peers would have died, leaving the entire community weaker.

Chapter 30 Quotes

Newt’s head appeared at the little glassless window, looking through the bars, a smirk on his face. “Nice reward for breakin’ the rules. You saved some lives, Tommy, but ya still need to learn—”

“Yeah, I know. Order.”

Related Characters: Thomas (speaker), Newt (speaker), Alby, Minho
Page Number: 191
Explanation and Analysis:

Thomas has been sent to the Glade jail, the Slammer, for disobeying the rules of the community. In the Slammer, Newt lectures Thomas about the importance of obedience to authority. But by this point in the novel, Thomas has already heard Newt's little speech several times--it's getting boring, and Thomas doesn't take it even halfway seriously.

Thomas is beginning to develop his own moral code, distinct from that of the Glade. While others, such as Newt, emphasize obedience to authority, Thomas makes his own rules, and acts for moral reasons--even going out of his way to save Alby and Minho from the Maze. Thomas's self-reliance makes him the most sympathetic and admirable character in the book. Rules and laws are useless when they go against fundamental morality, and so Thomas's disobedience looks like heroism.

Chapter 31 Quotes

Alby continued. “I hope the Changing doesn’t give us real memories—just plants fake ones. Some suspect it—I can only hope. If the world’s the way I saw it...” He trailed off, leaving an ominous silence.

Related Characters: Alby (speaker), Thomas
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Alby tells Thomas that during his (Alby's) Changing he saw images (supposedly his own memories) of the outside world, beyond the Glade. Alby was frightened by such images, and hopes that they're just hallucinations, not real memories. Alby's reaction to the images is interesting, because he seems not to enjoy them in the slightest. If Alby's memories symbolize his old life, then the fact that Alby rejects such images might suggest that he'd prefer to hang onto his life in the Glade. Alby is a kind of Adam figure, trying to stay in the Garden of Eden for as long as possible before he gets knowledge of the outside world. One could say that he's also a quintessential "child" archetype as well, because he's trying to cling to his innocence and ignorance for as long as possible, and is afraid of the "Maze" and outside world of adolescence and adulthood.

Chapter 36 Quotes

“I remember remembering,” she muttered, sitting down with a heavy sigh; she pulled her legs up to wrap her arms around her knees. “Feelings. Emotions. Like I have all these shelves in my head, labeled for memories and faces, but they’re empty. As if everything before this is just on the other side of a white curtain. Including you.”

Related Characters: Teresa (speaker), Thomas
Page Number: 234
Explanation and Analysis:

Teresa and Thomas seem to have known each other before they arrived in the Glade--how, exactly, they knew each other isn't remotely clear, though. Teresa has some extremely vague memories of spending time with Thomas--as she puts it, she can't remember how she knew Thomas, but she can remember remembering itself.

The passage is interesting because it suggests how important it is to remember the past when growing in the present. Teresa and Thomas may have had an entire life together--they're trying to rediscover their memories of each other so that they can make sense of their present situations, too. Without memories, Teresa and Thomas are trapped in a permanent state of emptiness, lacking strong identities based on past experiences.

“Congrats, Jeff,” Newt said. “You’re officially the first guy here to get your butt beat by a girl.”

Teresa didn’t stop. “Keep talking like that and you’ll be next.”

Related Characters: Teresa (speaker), Newt (speaker), Jeff
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Teresa proves that she's tougher and stronger than many of the boys in her community. She's snuck to the graveyard, where she meets Newt. Teresa explains that she was able to sneak to the graveyard by attacking Jeff, another Glader. Newt laughs about how Jeff must be weak, but falls silent when Teresa threatens to attack him, too. The message is clear: even if the overall "vibe" of the Glade is masculine, competitive, and immature, women like Teresa are strong and confident enough to stand up for themselves and fight any boys who give them trouble. The novel certainly doesn't delve into many complications of sexism or gender roles, but merely sticks with its assertion that women are as strong and resourceful as men.

Chapter 39 Quotes

“No one ever understood what I saw, what the Changing did to me! Don’t go back to the real world, Thomas! You don’ remember!”

Related Characters: Gally (speaker), Thomas
Related Symbols: The Changing
Page Number: 258
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Gally--previously, a bullying, antagonistic character--suddenly reappears to give Thomas some serious advice. Gally runs around, raving like a madman, yelling about how the Grievers will attack one Glader per night until everyone is dead. Gally, who's previously been rude and tough on Thomas, now tells Thomas to reject his memories--he might not like what he finds.

Gally's behavior reminds us that memory, while clearly important to the characters' identities, might not be a solution to their problems. On the contrary, memory can cause as many problems as it solves. Some characters, such as Alby, seem content to live without memories; i.e., to live in a perpetual present, blissfully ignorant of reality. Thomas, on the other hand, seems eager to reclaim his own memories--but Gally's warning suggests that he might want to rethink his goal, particularly since knowledge often brings pain as much as it brings hope.

Chapter 45 Quotes

They needed more clues about the code. They needed memories.

So he was going to get stung by a Griever. Go through the Changing. On purpose.

Related Characters: Thomas
Related Symbols: The Changing
Page Number: 291
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Thomas endangers his life for a greater good: knowledge. Thomas knows that he needs to solve the mysterious code of the Maze, and he knows that doing so will require him to remember things that happened to him before he arrived in the Glade. The only way to relive his past life is to get stung by the dangerous Grievers.

Thomas is willing to risk his own safety in order to solve the Maze and help the other escape. While other characters regard getting stung as a frightening thing--since it causes the Changing, a series of vivid flashbacks that are either painful or pleasant (and thus painful to wake up from)--Thomas accepts that he must undergo the Changing. Thomas shows that he's becoming a brave, confident young man, giving up his own ignorant happiness for enlightenment. This is the kind of sacrifice necessary in growing up--experiencing pain and gaining painful knowledge, but maturing and developing in the process.

Chapter 48 Quotes

Thomas shook his head. “No, you don’t get it. They’re weeding us out, seeing if we’ll give up, finding the best of us. Throwing variables at us, trying to make us quit. Testing our ability to hope and fight. Sending Teresa here and shutting everything down was only the last part, one analysis. Now it’s time for the last test. To escape.”

Related Characters: Thomas (speaker), Teresa, Newt
Page Number: 301
Explanation and Analysis:

Thomas is now clearly beginning to figure out what the Maze is designed to achieve. He doesn't have all the information, but he's guessed that the Maze is specifically designed to challenge the Gladers, separating the strong from the weak.

Throughout the passage, Thomas's tone remains optimistic--he wants to escape from the Maze at all costs. While others, such as Alby, seemed to think that it was better to remain a Glader, ignorant of the past, Thomas is confident that he and his friends' lives will be better once they escape. It's important to note that, as Thomas becomes more aware of his surroundings, he's also become more mature and confident in his own abilities--by exploring his environment, he's grown up.

Chapter 51 Quotes

“I’m telling you.” Alby sounded like he was begging—near hysterical. “We can’t go back to where we came from. I’ve seen it, remembered awful, awful things. Burned land, a disease—something called the Flare. It was horrible—way worse than we have it here…Better to die than go home.”

Related Characters: Alby (speaker), Thomas, Newt
Page Number: 312
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, it's revealed that Alby doesn't want Thomas and his friends to go back to the outside world--he wants everyone to remain in the Glade, where life is dangerous and strict, but at least ordered and familiar. Alby has been sabotaging any plans that could potentially lead to an escape--he's absolutely desperate to remain in his current home. Alby explains that he's seen visions of the outside world, in which existence looks cruel and frightening.

In spite of--or perhaps, because of--the fact that he's a leader among the Gladers, Alby is too afraid to leave the Glade forever. For all his pretensions of maturity and control, he's a child--too frightened of the outside world to explore it on his own, and longing to remain in his state of "ignorant bliss."

Chapter 54 Quotes

“After two years of being treated like mice, tonight we’re making a stand. Tonight we’re taking the fight back to the Creators, no matter what we have to go through to get there. Tonight the Grievers better be scared.”

Related Characters: Newt (speaker)
Page Number: 328
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Newt sums up everything the Gladers are going to achieve. For too long, Newt and his friends have been forced to run through the Maze like mice--now, they're going to track down the people who designed the Maze and kidnapped them in the first place.

Notice that it's Newt, not Alby, the group's supposed leader, who's speaking to his friends here. Newt, in spite of his dogmatic reliance on the rules, is brave and optimistic enough to inspire his friends--unlike Alby, his commander, he's not really afraid of the outside world. Newt inspires his peers to stand up for themselves and explore the unknown--in short, to grow up.

Chapter 55 Quotes

Minho continued. “Alby didn’t wanna go back to his old life. He freaking sacrificed himself for us—and they aren’t attacking, so maybe it worked. We’d be heartless if we wasted it.”

Related Characters: Minho (speaker), Thomas, Alby, Newt
Page Number: 334
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Alby, the leader of the Gladers, has just sacrificed himself to the deadly Grievers in order to protect his friends from danger. Alby has been frightened of leaving the Glade for some time now--yet here, he not only participates in the movement to explore the outside world; he even gives up his own life for the sake of the mission.

Alby's sacrifice, it could be argued, reinforces how opposed he was to leaving the Glade. He's exceptionally brave, and yet he's also deeply frightened of going back to his old life--a life that he's previously described as terrifying and horrible. Alby's act is a kind of noble suicide, designed to free himself from the pain of returning to the past, but also to help those who are determined to do so.

Chapter 60 Quotes

“All things happen for a purpose,” she said, any sign of malice now gone from her voice. “You must understand this.”

Related Characters: Thomas, Chuck
Page Number: 360
Explanation and Analysis:

Thomas, along with the other Gladers, have escaped the Maze and found the Creators. An unnamed woman confronts them, and then she reveals Gally, who throws a knife at Thomas--but Chuck throws himself in front of Thomas, sacrificing his life. As Thomas grows enraged and then despairing, the unnamed woman tells Thomas that everything happens for a reason.

Thomas isn't sure how to interpret the woman's advice (it's possible that, since his memories have been removed, he doesn't realize how cliched and banal it is). The woman's advice suggests that she sees the world through a scientific lens--she thinks that every event has a cause, which can be analyzed and broken down into its constituent parts. (This makes sense if she's a Creator of the Maze, an experiment essentially designed to make everything happen for a reason.) Although Thomas has often thought that the world is a random, unpredictable place, he's gradually come around to the woman's point of view, deciphering the mysteries of the Maze--but then realizing that the Maze itself was made by flawed humans.

Chapter 62 Quotes

He died saving you, Teresa said. He made the choice himself. Just don’t ever waste it.

Related Characters: Teresa (speaker), Thomas, Chuck
Page Number: 371
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Thomas tries to make sense of Chuck's sacrifice--a sacrifice that saved Thomas's life at the expense of Chuck's. Thomas doesn't understand why Chuck--someone who hasn't always acted very mature--would have done something so heroic for him, and doesn't know how he should react. Teresa tells Thomas her opinion: Chuck's noble sacrifice is an invitation for Thomas to put his life to a greater purpose.

In a way, Thomas is on to his third life: his first life has been erased from his memory; his second life was spent in the Glade; now, his third life is just beginning, thanks to Chuck. (We might think of this as childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.) Gradually, Thomas is learning to be bolder and more mature in everything he does--here, for instance, he comes to see Chuck's death as a kind of mandate, urging him to be a better person. The universe--and Chuck's death--might seem meaningless, but it's Thomas's job to make his own meaning out of the disaster.

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