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 17-20 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 17

Inside the Maze, everything is dark and it takes Thomas a while to collect his thoughts. The reality of what he has just done terrifies him, but he manages to find his way to Minho and Alby. Minho tells Thomas that what he just did was stupid, not brave. To enter the Maze at night was breaking the number one rule, and now all of them are going to die. Thomas tries to think of a way to get out of the situation, and is flustered by Minho’s negativity. Minho tells him that they have tried everything, and that no one who has survived a Griever before has stayed out overnight—they all got back in time to get the Serum. He then tells Thomas that they found the Griever, but when Alby touched it the Griever went crazy and stung him multiple times before running away as if confused. Thomas suggests that they climb the vines, which angers Minho even more. He yells at Thomas about his know-it-all attitude, and then tells him that they have tried that before. Minho tells Thomas that his sense of hope is just making everything worse. Then he apologizes, saying he has never been more scared in his life. Thomas is about to reply when they hear a noise, a metallic whirring and clicking sound in the distance. Minho stands up quickly and says that the only way they will survive is if they split up and run as fast as they can. He then runs into the Maze, leaving Alby and Thomas alone and defenseless.

Chapter 18

Thomas is angry and shocked that Minho has run away and abandoned them, especially Alby, his friend and leader. At first, he tries to carry Alby away, but is unable to lift him. Although Minho mentioned that they had already tried climbing the vines, Thomas decides to use the vines as a pulley system and hoist Alby up the wall. With the Grievers apparently moving slowly, Thomas is able to get both himself and Alby about thirty feet up the wall, hidden behind the vines. Though he knows nothing about the Grievers, he hopes that they will not look up or that he can at least fight them off from above.

As Thomas hangs on the wall and listens to the oncoming Grievers, he nearly screams as he notices a beetle blade on the wall right beside him. Looking at the creature, which is shining a red light directly at Thomas, he once again sees the word “WICKED” printed on its body. As the beetle scurries off, Thomas remembers that the beetle blades are supposed to be spies for the Creators. He tries imitating Alby’s lifeless body, but then notices something round the corner up ahead and move towards them—a Griever.

Chapter 19

As the Griever approaches, Thomas notices that the creature is covered in slimy skin and has needles, as well as other sharp metal appendages like claws and hooks, sticking out of its body. The Griever moves along the Maze floor by retracting its metal appendages and then rolling. Thomas finds the image impossible to accept and the sight of it recalls a vague memory of being afraid of the shadows on the walls of his childhood room. He now wishes he could go back to that time, to be anywhere but here with the Griever. The Griever moves slowly along the corridor, and then comes to the spot on the wall right beneath Thomas. Thomas prays for it not to notice him. Once the Griever is directly under Thomas, it stops moving and all of its lights go out. Thomas wants desperately to look below him, and hopes that the Griever has somehow stopped for good. Instead, the lights flash back on, and the Griever begins climbing up the wall towards Thomas.

Chapter 20

The Griever uses its spikes to climb the wall and shines a blinding red light directly at Thomas. Thomas realizes that his only option is to run, and so he moves sideways across the wall, using his body weight to swing along the vines. He notices that instead of attacking Alby, the Griever is following him, and he is happy that something is working in his favor. On his next swing, however, he smashes into a wall and loses his grip. As he tumbles downwards, he manages to catch a vine before hitting the stone floor. Thomas pushes off the wall and swings backwards, hitting the Griever’s slimy body as it dives to attack him. He connects with the Griever and hears a crack, but then realizes he is now swinging directly towards the creature. He hits the Griever as hard as possible, and then pushes off and away, feeling the creature’s claw cut his back.

Thomas lets go of the vines, and as he hits the ground, he begins to run without looking behind him. As he runs, he tries to keep track of his progress and direction, hoping that if he survives he can use the information. When he rounds a corner, however, he sees three more Grievers rolling towards him.

Chapter 17 – Chapter 20 Analysis

Thomas cannot understand what he sees as an illogical premise. Though two people are in need of assistance, Newt tells him not to go into the Maze. Once he does, Minho tells him that he is an idiot for breaking the number one rule and sacrificing his life, as now all three of them will die. It almost feels like a catch-22, in that if he breaks the rules, someone dies, and if he abides by the rules and stays out of the Maze, someone dies. Thomas is also faced with how futile hope can be to those on the verge of death or simply on the verge of giving up. Minho tells Thomas that his hope makes things worse. Moreover, when the Grievers come, Minho runs off and leaves both an unconscious Alby and the newcomer Thomas alone to fend for themselves. Minho’s actions show how important survival is to the Gladers. Though Newt is friends with both boys, he would not enter the Maze to save them, as his own life would be at stake. Likewise, Minho’s own life is in danger if he and Thomas stay together. This survival mentality is hard for Thomas to grasp, and he ultimately pushes against it.

An important moment in Thomas’s growth comes when he realizes that he is not the type of person to leave a friend behind, and helps the unconscious Alby despite the danger to his own life. This act shows that people can indeed have character traits that are embedded deep within. Even if those identities are hidden, or in the case of Thomas, erased through memory loss, they are still there. In this sense, Thomas has revealed himself as a “good” person; he chooses to “do good,” and in doing so, becomes a good person.

Hope is tested in Thomas’s first close encounter with a Griever. He has never seen something so awful and wants to scream out loud at the sight. Though it is his first time in the Maze, he manages to go toe to toe with the creature, which apparently has never been done before. This shows how resilient Thomas is and suggests that change can be a good thing, and the difference between life and death.

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