Like many books in the young adult genre, The Maze Runner can be interpreted as an extended metaphor for the challenges of growing up. In a metaphor for birth, all the kids are brought into the Glade with no possessions, memories, or identity. Even the metal box from which they come appears to symbolize the womb. To make the metaphor more obvious, Newt and Chuck both tell Thomas that most Gladers spend their first weeks in the Glade scared, confused, and crying like babies.
Life in the Glade also appears to conform to conventional literary descriptions of childhood. In many literary accounts, childhood is represented as an idyllic period before the hardships of adolescence and adulthood. Although the kids in the Glade have to work, the Glade shares some similarities with representations of a paradisiacal childhood. The Glade is safe, there is an abundance of food, and every day the weather is always beautiful and temperate. In this way, life in the Glade appears like an idyllic childhood.
Unlike the relative peacefulness of the Glade, the author aligns the Maze with a period of adolescence. Like the Maze itself, adolescence is marked by confusion, disorientation, and hard decisions. Teenagers navigating adolescence may at times feel just as hopeless and scared as the Runners navigating the Maze. The metaphor of the Maze as adolescence becomes most obvious when Grievers sting kids in the Maze, causing them to go through the Changing. In what could be a metaphor for puberty, the Changing makes kids’ bodies change in confusing and frightening ways.
Finally, at the end of the novel, the Gladers manage to fight their way through the Maze and enter the harsh outside world of adulthood. For example, when the Gladers escape the Maze, they marvel at seeing adults for the first time, which marks this new world as the adult world. But what they don’t realize is that by fighting their way through the Maze and entering the outside world, they themselves have become adults. Even Chuck, who has been immature and childlike for the entire novel, gains a new sense of responsibility in the adult world, as shown by his willingness to sacrifice himself for Thomas.
Growing Up ThemeTracker
Growing Up Quotes in The Maze Runner
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.
“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?”
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.
“No one ever understood what I saw, what the Changing did to me! Don’t go back to the real world, Thomas! You don’t...want...to remember!”
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.
“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.”