James Dashner

The Maze Runner

  • 67-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 63 chapter summaries and 6 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a literary scholar with a Master's degree in English Literature
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The Maze Runner Chapters 1-4 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 1

A boy finds himself in a dark metal elevator with the sounds of chains and pulleys around him. The smell of burnt oil, combined with the motion of the elevator, nauseates him. He has no recollection of how he came to be in the elevator, but knows that his name is Thomas. In fact, his name is the only thing he can remember about his life. He has memories and knowledge of places and things, but cannot recognize how he relates to the people, places and images. He tries desperately to understand his predicament but cannot recall how he ended up here. However, Thomas’s fear is eventually replaced by curiosity. What is going on? After what seems like half an hour, the elevator stops. Thomas cries out for help, but no one responds. Finally, the room begins to open from above and Thomas can hear voices. The light hurts his eyes, so he looks away, but after a time, his eyes adjust and he notices that a group of boys are staring down at him. One of the teenagers lowers a rope and, after a moment’s hesitation, Thomas grabs on and is slowly pulled up. When he reaches the top, someone speaks to him directly, saying “Nice to meet ya, shank…Welcome to the Glade (4).”

Chapter 2

Still confused, and with the large group of boys staring at him, Thomas assesses his surroundings. He notes that “they stood in a vast courtyard several times the size of a football field, surrounding by four large walls made of gray stone and covered in spots with thick ivy” (5). He also notes that the walls form a perfect square around the boys and each wall has an opening as tall as the walls themselves in its centre. The openings appear to lead to a series of passages and corridors. Thomas then turns his attention on the boys staring at him. The group is comprised of teenage boys of varying sizes and races, including a kid named Gally who calls him “Greenbean”; a short, pudgy boy; a tall kid with a square jaw; a heavily muscled Asian boy; and the dark skinned boy who first spoke to him. The boys’ manner of speaking confuses Thomas, as they use strange words, like “shuck-face,” “klunk” and “Keepers.” The dark-skinned boy tells the others to keep quiet, and Thomas reasons that he must be their leader. Thomas notices an old building in the courtyard, as well as a vegetable garden and pens with sheep and pigs. The boy Thomas assumes is the leader steps forward and introduces himself as Alby. His clothing—jeans, a t-shirt and a digital watch—stand out to Thomas, as they seem so normal given the circumstances.

Thomas asks Alby where they are, and Alby tries to explain. He says that Thomas is the first “Greenbean” to arrive since a boy named Nick was killed. He also assures him that the boys are not going to kill him, and that the point is to not get killed. As a look of horror spreads across Thomas’s face, a new kid, Newt, steps up, telling Alby not to scare Thomas and to leave the explaining to the tour. Alby tells Thomas not to interrupt him while he tries to explain, but Thomas has so many questions, he forgets, angering Alby. Alby drags Thomas to his feet and tells him that if they tried explaining everything all at once he would die on the spot. Newt again intercedes and calms Alby down. After Alby storms off, Newt tells a confused Thomas that everyone in the Glade arrived in the dark box just as he did, and that they were all just as confused as him on their first day. Newt promises Thomas that in time he will grow accustomed to his new life. Immediately after Newt finishes speaking, a piercing scream is heard throughout the Glade. Newt tells Thomas to find Chuck to learn about his sleeping arrangements, and then runs off towards the wooden building. Thomas sinks to the ground, wishing he could wake from what feels like a terrible dream.

Chapter 3

Thomas stands up, only to see something flashing silver and red dart behind a tree. Thomas looks for the object, but finds nothing. Behind him, he hears a boy saying that the object is called a “beetle blade.” The boy appears to be around twelve years old. He says that the beetle blade will not hurt Thomas unless he is stupid enough to touch it. Another scream comes from the wooden building, and Thomas asks what is wrong with the screaming boy. The chubby boy replies that “they” got a boy named Ben, and when Thomas asks who “they” are, he says that Thomas better hope he never finds out. He finally introduces himself as Chuck, and says that he was the last kid to come from the Box before Thomas, thereby making Thomas the Greenbean. Chuck says that Ben will be alright, despite the screaming, and that anyone who makes it back in time after getting stung by a “Griever” and gets the “Serum” will be fine. It just hurts a lot. Thomas tries to push Chuck for more information, but Chuck just rolls his eyes, angering Thomas. He then asks Chuck how old he looks, and Chuck says he appears to be around sixteen years old.

Chuck tells Thomas that he was just like him, and that after some time in the Glade, he will get used to it. As Thomas goes off in the direction of the wooden building, Chuck asks him his name, and says he has to at least remember that. Thomas realizes that all the boys must have at least this thing in common, that they can only remember their names and nothing more. As Thomas prepares to enter the wooden building to find answers, Chuck says that even though he cannot offer much information, he can be Thomas’ friend, to which Thomas replies that he does not need a friend.

As Thomas enters the wooden building, one of the boys from earlier taunts him, calling him Greenie and Greenbean. Thomas wants to get away from the kid, and tries to head upstairs, but the dark-haired boy blocks his way. He tells Thomas that newbies are not allowed to see a boy who has been “taken,” and that Newt and Alby will not allow him to go up the stairs. He also tells Thomas that he has seen him somewhere before, and that Thomas’s presence in the Glade is suspect. He reveals that he has been stung before as well, and that it was during the “Changing” that he saw Thomas. Thomas does not let up, however, and says he wants to see Newt. The boy finally relents and tells Thomas to go ahead. Thomas knows the boy is up to something, but cannot back down now. The boy tells Thomas that his name is Gally, but that Thomas can call him Captain Gally, and that he is the real leader of the Glade. Thomas calls him Captain Gally and exaggerates a salute, which causes the other boys to laugh and embarrasses Gally.

Thomas rushes up the stairs, wanting to get away from Gally, even though Chuck tries to tell him that he is not allowed to go up there. When he opens the door, he sees Newt and Alby hunched over a boy with large green veins all over is body. The sight is so shocking that Thomas almost throws up. Alby sees him and yells at him to leave or he will throw him off the “Cliff.” Embarrassed and sickened, Thomas rushes outside, begging Chuck to get him away from the place.

Chapter 4

Outside, Thomas notes his location by taking in his surroundings, and spies a concrete building with an iron door and a steering wheel for a handle. He turns his attention again to the large openings in the Glade’s walls, but is relieved to see Chuck, who has brought Thomas some food. After the debacle inside the wooden building, Thomas is relieved to have Chuck around. As the two eat, Thomas asks Chuck what lies behind the walls. Chuck feigns ignorance, but Thomas can tell he is withholding information, and continues to press him about it and the Changing. When he finally gets fed up with the lack of information, he asks why everyone is being so secretive. Chuck admits that no one really knows the truth about the Glade.

Though Chuck warns Thomas about exploring, Thomas decides to get a closer look at the walls. Chuck warns him that the “Doors” will close soon. Thomas is dumfounded to think that the walls can actually move, but Chuck just tells him to wait and see, and that the Runners will be back shortly. Chuck takes him to the East Door, where he finds that one side of the wall contains openings and the other side contains rods. Chuck says that the Doors inside the Maze move around at night as well. Thomas, realizing Chuck must have said something he was not supposed to, presses him again about the “Maze.” Realizing his mistake, Chuck vows not to say anything else, and leaves.

Thomas is intrigued by what Chuck has just said, and stares into the opening and the pathway beyond, noting the stone and ivy inside of the Maze. Suddenly, he sees a boy running towards him. The boy runs straight through the Door, past Thomas, to the concrete building. He then sees boys entering the Glade from the other three Doors. The four boys meet up and enter the building. At the same time, Chuck reappears. Thomas tries asking him as many questions as possible, but Chuck refuses to answer any of them, telling Thomas that he needs to get some sleep. Suddenly, a loud boom is heard, startling Thomas. Chuck tells him that the sound is made by the Doors closing, and Thomas watches in shock as the Doors all close. Confused and disbelieving, he finally follows Chuck to get some sleep.

Chapter 1 – Chapter 4 Analysis

The first four chapters thrust the reader into the world of The Maze Runner, along with the novel’s protagonist, Thomas. Dashner effectively portrays the feelings of confusion and doubt that plague Thomas by limiting the reader’s own understanding of what is going on. The reader has no idea what the lift is or who put Thomas there, and, in this way, Dashner creates a bond between reader and protagonist as both seek to find out together exactly what is going on in this new world of the Glade and the Maze.

The Glade itself, as Thomas comes to understand it, is a great example of society at its best. Though surrounded by confusion and fear, the self-sustaining community of the Glade paints a picture of hope and camaraderie, and highlights the benefits of a society concerned with the welfare of its citizens. This will later be contrasted against the bleak world outside the Maze, showing just how important hope is when faced with devastating odds. The Glade also challenges the idea that teenagers as selfish and immature. Though the boys do act in selfish ways, they are able to establish rules and order, and allow themselves to be governed, thereby exhibiting great maturity for teenagers. Dashner shows that maturity, identity and self-worth are not products of age, but of intent and purpose.

These chapters also allude to the concept of birth, or rebirth, as those who enter the Glade through the Box all go through the same “enlightening” experience. They are brought into a new world kicking, screaming and confused. Even the language of the Gladers is different, and has to be learned. While this process mirrors birth, it also highlights the fact that human beings are always able to learn new things and to “grow” when they need to. Regardless of how far humanity thinks it has come, when faced with alternative scenarios, the drive to learn and adapt is always present. Those, like Thomas, who seek to learn and adapt, are able to survive and move forward.

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