The Maze Runner


James Dashner

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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.

Memory and Identity

In The Maze Runner, all the characters lose their memories before arriving in the Glade. Without these memories, Thomas loses his sense of self. As such, recovering his memories becomes one of his main goals. During his struggle to discover his identity, Thomas questions whether people are the sum total of their memories and past experiences or if we have essential natures that exist regardless of our experiences. For example, early in the…

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Stability and Order vs. Change and Chaos

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…

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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…

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Growing Up

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…

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Throughout the novel, the Gladers struggle to maintain hope despite the nightmarish and horrific nature of their circumstances. The three main leaders, Alby, Newt, and Minho, each have their own views about the best way for maintaining hope. Alby believes a system of laws and punishments will give the Gladers stability and the hope necessary for their continued search for an escape. In contrast, Newt thinks that work is the only thing…

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Gender plays a small but significant role in the novel. For two years, the Glade consists of boys only, until Teresa arrives the day after Thomas. Since the boys have never encountered a girl before, Alby senses that there is a risk that some of the boys may rape Teresa, so he has guards protect her. Likewise, when Teresa first arrives, the boys catcall her, treating her like an object rather than a human…

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