James Dashner

The Maze Runner

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  • Features 63 chapter summaries and 6 sections of expert analysis
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The Maze Runner Symbols and Motifs

The Maze

The Maze is a symbol that represents both chaos and order for the Gladers. Every night, the walls of the Maze move and shift, making it harder for the Gladers to find an exit. The Doors close every night as well, symbolizing routine and order in the otherwise chaotic Maze. The massiveness of the Maze, the fact that the walls change nightly, and the Grievers that haunt its corridors, all symbolize futility and complete chaos for the Gladers. Thomas is able to see the horror of the Maze as a symbol, and in time, he shows the other Gladers how to benefit from the apparent chaos of the Maze. He also shows that the random movements are not so random, and thereby reveals a code to the Maze. By showing the Gladers how to view the Maze as a symbol, and by extracting the code, he ultimately shows them a new way of looking at life, and how things and events can seem futile and chaotic at the outset, but if a different perspective is applied, chaos can be transformed into order.

The Glade

The Maze also represents the trials and tribulations associated with adolescence. Like the Maze, adolescence can appear chaotic and confusing to teenagers, filled with wrong turns and regrettable choices. Although the futility of the Maze makes the boys feel sullen and depressed, the Glade works as a sort of safe haven away from the overall chaos of their lives. The Glade is symbolic of order and society, and through hard work and observance of the Glade’s laws, the Gladers can participate in a sense of self that ultimately offers them hope for the future. This hope for better days outside of the Maze is symbolic of the hope that teenagers can make it through adolescence.

The Cliff

The Cliff works as a symbol on a variety of levels. It is at first a symbol for punishment, as when Alby threatens to throw Thomas off the cliff for disobeying the rules. As such, the Gladers see the Cliff as a symbol of law and order. When Thomas sees the Cliff for the first time, it is revealed to be a place with no logic, where things disappear without rhyme or reason. As such, the Cliff also symbolizes the unknown. It is a fearful place and Thomas is overwhelmed by its existence. In this sense, the cliff symbolizes the need for Thomas and the other Gladers to come to terms with their fear of the unknown. The Cliff is eventually revealed as the place the Grievers come from. At the same time, The Griever Hole is finally revealed to be the only method of escape for the Gladers. In this way, the Gladers must face their fears and jump off the Cliff into the Griever Hole, symbolically jumping into the unknown in an attempt to gain clarity and move forward.

The Changing

The act of getting stung by a Griever and going through the Changing is symbolic of growing up. As a result of this painful act, the Gladers go through the Changing, which is a metaphor for puberty. The Changing makes the Gladers’ bodies change in confusing and frightening ways, and they feel that they are not always in control of their thoughts or actions. All of the Gladers are afraid of this process, and there are many rumors about what it is like, which mimics the way adolescents talk about puberty. The Changing is also symbolic of a rite-of-passage, a transition to a different outlook on life.

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