The Maze Runner

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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.
Sacrifice  Theme Icon

In The Maze Runner, many characters risk their lives for the sake of saving those around them in various acts of self-sacrifice. Thomas risks his own life, entering into the Maze to save Alby and Minho. In contrast to Thomas’s act of bravery, Minho leaves behind the two of them in order to save his own life. Like Thomas, Gally sacrifices himself on the night of the Grievers’ first raid so that no one else would be killed. Although Gally may have seemed selfish and arrogant for most of the novel, this sacrifice is an act of redemption that makes up for his past behaviors.

In the end, most of the Gladers are willing to risk their lives in order to protect Thomas and Teresa as they look for an exit to the Maze. Although half of the Gladers die, their sacrifice makes it possible for the rest of them to escape. Thomas, however, wonders if the escape was worth their sacrifice because he thinks it’s unfair that half of them died while the other half got to live. Thomas’ negative feelings about sacrifice become most pronounced when Chuck sacrifices his life to save Thomas’. At first Thomas feels guilty about Chuck’s sacrifice, but Teresa tells him it was Chuck’s choice to throw himself in front of the knife. She tells Thomas that now he has a responsibly not to waste Chuck’s sacrifice. Thomas agrees and comes to the realization that sacrifice is a tragic but noble act as long as people have the right to choose to sacrifice themselves.

In contrast to these self-sacrifices, the author structures the novel around a sacrifice that is not chosen by the people who have to make it. The Creators took teenagers, wiped their memories, and put them in the Maze without their consent. Although the Creators knew that many of the boys would die, they were willing to sacrifice the boys’ lives for what they thought was the greater good of humanity—this logic is presented as morally dubious within the novel, as it amounts to using people regardless of hoped-for ends of that use. Thus, sacrifice only appears as a positive act when the person doing the sacrifice has had the opportunity to make that choice for him or herself.

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Sacrifice Quotes in The Maze Runner

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


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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 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 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 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.