The Maze Runner

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Stability and Order vs. Change and Chaos 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.
Stability and Order vs. Change and Chaos  Theme Icon

Throughout the novel, a tension exists between the benefits of order for maintaining a self-sustaining society and the necessary changes that must occur for the Gladers to survive the Maze. Thrust into this mysterious and dangerous world, the boys use order and rules as a way of preventing panic and despair from taking hold of their lives. With a rigid system of laws, a well-defined leadership hierarchy, and daily work assignments, the boys set up a functioning society despite their young age and extreme circumstances. Thomas quickly learns the value of order when he finds relief from his sense of hopelessness about ever leaving the Maze by committing himself to the daily work routine in the Glade.

Although order provides stability, the Glade’s systems of laws and punishments verges on being cruel. The Gladers banish Ben for attacking Thomas despite the fact that Ben was in a state of obvious mental distress during the attack. The laws are so rigid that the Gladers don’t take into account the circumstances of Ben’s attack, banishing him into the Maze, which is effectively a death sentence. When Ben, terrified and crying, pleads for mercy and forgiveness, Thomas sympathizes with the boy and realizes that the cruelty of the punishment is disproportionate to Ben’s crime. Most of the Gladers, however, take pleasure in banishing Ben, showing how their desire to uphold order and discipline has become stronger than their sense of empathy or mercy for their fellow Glader.

Thomas, however, initiates necessary changes that disrupt the normal routine and order of things. Although it’s against the rules to be in the Maze after dark, Thomas goes inside to save Alby and Minho. Even though he saves them, the other Gladers force him to spend a day in their jail for breaking their rules. Thomas also gets frustrated with the Runners’ attitude towards solving the Maze. Everyday they try the same thing, never changing the routine. Despite their initial resistance to change, Thomas eventually convinces them to forgo the stability of their routine when he helps lead most of the Gladers into the Maze. This break in the normal routine leads to their escape from the Maze. In contrast to those willing to change, the Gladers who stayed behind and stuck with the routine most likely ended up dead.

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Stability and Order vs. Change and Chaos Quotes in The Maze Runner

Below you will find the important quotes in The Maze Runner related to the theme of Stability and Order vs. Change and Chaos .
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.


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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 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 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.

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.