The Maze Runner

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Growing Up Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Memory and Identity  Theme Icon
Stability and Order vs. Change and Chaos  Theme Icon
Sacrifice  Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Hope Theme Icon
Sexism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Maze Runner, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Growing Up Theme Icon

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.

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Growing Up Quotes in The Maze Runner

Below you will find the important quotes in The Maze Runner related to the theme of Growing Up.
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 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 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 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 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.