main index




Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
Kickstarter Message
TV Tropes Needs Your Help
Big things are happening on TV Tropes! New admins, new designs, fewer ads, mobile versions, beta testing opportunities, thematic discovery engine, fun trope tools and toys, and much more - Learn how to help here and discuss here.
View Kickstarter Project
Literature: The Maze Runner
When Thomas wakes up, all he knows is his name and the fact that he can't see a thing. When he's released, things only get stranger. Thomas finds himself in the Glade, a walled-in sanctuary in a giant maze that rearranges itself every night. Outside are walls without exits, a cliff jump to nowhere, and disgusting creatures called grievers. Inside, there is only a population of boys who remember only their names, who have struggled every day for two years to find a way out.

The next day, a girl named Theresa arrives in the Glade for the first time, in a coma. Who is she? Why is she there? Why does Thomas feel so drawn to her? And more importantly, will any of them ever escape?

The Maze Runner was written by James Dashner, followed by a sequel, The Scorch Trials, involving the aftermath of the first book and the introduction of new friends and enemies. The final book, The Death Cure, was released in October 2011, introducing the context and ramifications of the previous books and concluding the story. A prequel to the trilogy has been released as of August 14, 2012 called The Kill Order.

A Film of the Book, starring Dylan O'Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter and Patricia Clarkson was released on September 19, 2014.

Now has a character page. Please feel free to contribute!

Provides Examples Of:

  • Action Girl: Pretty much every major female character.
  • After the End
  • Amnesiac Hero: Pretty much all the Gladers.
  • Apocalypse How: The series turns out to be set after a Class 2 one of these: A combination of Solar Flares and a virus, collectively known as the Flare, has wiped out civilization outside a few tiny bases, leaving the world a barely-habitable wasteland roamed by the Ax-Crazy Cranks, with some parts having been scoured of all life.
  • Arc Words: WICKED is good.
  • Ax-Crazy: People infected with the Flare eventually become this.
  • Big Bad: Assistant Director Janson, better known as "the Rat-Man", is the primary antagonist of the series.
    • Gally more or less serves as this in the first book and the film, where WICKED is monitoring things off-screen for the majority of the book. It's more explicit in the movie.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Minho, along with the other Gladers and Jorge, in The Scorch Trials.
  • Bigger Bad: Chancellor Paige, the head of all the mess that is WICKED. Eventually, though, the cruelty of that position gets to her and she decides to cut their losses and stop torturing people for a cure that might never come.
  • Big Good: Chancellor Paige again, in the final half of the third book, where she decides to preserve humanity instead of saving it, since what WICKED was doing was just resulting in tortured and killed children.
  • Bittersweet Ending: And how. By the end of The Death Cure, many of the characters from the first book are dead (including Chuck, Teresa and Newt), there's no cure for the Flare and the Immunes will inherit the Earth. Thomas, Minho, Brenda, Jorge and the 200 Immunes begin rebuilding civilization in a safe place far from the Scorch.
  • Body Horror: The Changing. Dear God, The Changing. note 
  • Bungled Suicide: If you ever wonder how Newt got that limp...
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Lots. Medics are called "Med-Jacks", butchers are called "Slicers", etc.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: WICKED just does not give a shit if lots of children die painfully. The cure is more important.
  • The Cavalry: Chancellor Paige is this at the end of The Death Cure. She finally sees that WICKED has gone too far and implements her plan to get the rest of the Immunes away to safety so that the human race can survive, which she begins by rescuing Thomas from an imminent cranioectomy. Notably, Paige herself never appears in person in the series.
  • Central Theme: Running. The protagonists don't get to properly stop and sit down until the end of the third book.
  • Characterization Marches On: Jorge was introduced as a brute willing to commit murder for minor insults, savagely beating one of the protagonists over a slight. This turns out to almost totally be an act and he's later a generally inoffensive pilot and a sort of doting uncle to Brenda.
  • Closed Circle:
    • The Maze Runner features a place called the Glade. A bunch of teenagers are trapped in it with no memory of their lives before they woke up there. The Doors open at dawn and close at dusk, but only lead to a giant maze with no way out. Better yet, the Maze changes every night while the doors are closed. Oh, and if you're in the Maze at night, giant metal monsters attack you.
    • The sequel, The Scorch Trials, starts with yet another closed circle.
  • Crapsack World: This is an understatement. The world is crawling with those infected with the Flare and even those not infected have proven themselves to be just as nasty. Nearly everybody is willing to kill the protagonists (and everybody else) and there's nearly nothing in the way of plant life either.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Minho.
    • While not as immediately noticeable, Newt also goes into Sarcasm Mode plenty of times.
    • And Thomas picks it up from them.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Chuck dies in Thomas' arms.
  • Double Standard:
    • In-Universe. Group B, made up of a group of girls who had their own maze journey, are quick to flaunt the fact that they rescued more people and killed more Grievers than the stupid ugly boys. The fact of the matter is that they were given much better equipment to do it with, not to mention actual supplies for the Scorch Trials.
    • Teresa's manner makes it obvious that she considers herself smarter than most of the men around her, by default. Although in her case, that's very much in-character.
  • Dwindling Party: Near the end of the first book the Grievers settle on a pattern of taking someone every day. The second book continues the trend with more diverse death-dealing implements.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Grievers are small versions. Half mechanical, half organic killing machines. All mysteriously and frighteningly lethal. They represent the reality-bending phenomena surrounding the maze; their patterns are unknowable and their presence constant. Meeting one will result in the danger of painful death.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: Ava Paige's epilogue in the Death Cure shows that she is still devoted to WICKED's cause, even after having turned on most of them. She altered WICKED's mission objectives in a way that put her on the protagonists' side, though, and she was genuinely sorry for some of the things she did. The same epilogue also implies that Brenda and Jorge were following her orders to the end.
  • Fighting from the Inside: Gally, in the first book, fights hard. Newt in the third after he gets the Flare, but with mixed results.
  • Five-Man Band: Once all the chaff of secondary characters, traitors, victims, and tagalongs were harshly weeded out, an unlikely but stable group formed. When all together:
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • Thomas: Melancholic
    • Minho: Choleric
    • Brenda: Sanguine
    • Jorge: Phlegmatic
  • Fun with Acronyms: WICKED, World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department. Where Killzone is a malapropism for the mind-brain construct.
  • Future Slang: The series is riddled with this. "Shanks," "Slinthead," "Greenie," and "Slim it" being prominent examples, with Group B being implied to have their own.
  • Genius Bruiser: Most notably the Runners, who are quick thinking cartographers who make maps while running marathons and have to stand a fighting chance against The Grievers. At a point before the main story, Thomas himself counted; he was a child prodigy leading WICKED after the Purge of the first batch of Creators, as well as extraordinarily fit and a decent fighter, as proven throughout the series.
  • Genre Savvy: Thomas and Minho, after the first book and a half or so. They start calling most of the stuff they're going to be put through and eventually manage to throw the omniscient WICKED for a loop by anticipating their tactics.
  • Gorn: The series features a lot of gruesome deaths.
  • The Heart: Newt. Although the WICKED operators call him "The Glue"...
  • Heel-Face Turn: One of the more extraordinary examples in which the Big Bad becomes the Big Good. She was apparently on the fence, though.
  • Heroic Resolve: When freaked out and frantic, Thomas tends to will himself to overpower enemies or break out of holds.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Teresa dies saving Thomas from falling debris as they try to escape WICKED for the last time.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Possibly Newt and Alby. Well, before Alby died, anyway.
  • I Am Who?: Thomas and Theresa actually helped design the Maze that they're trapped in.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Newt asks Thomas to kill him after he gets the Flare.
  • The Immune: Turns out most of the Gladers and Brenda and Jorge, along with a very small percentage of the world's population called "Immunes" are this. Well, most of the Gladers except for Newt. In fact, being this is why most of the Gladers were picked by WICKED in the first place, because they wanted to research their brains to find a cure.
  • Informed Ability: The Gladers are picked for their intelligence from their childhood, though few of them actually show any real genius other then setting up a system of order in the Glade. The best real example is sort of roundabout, but Minho and Thomas coordinate battle tactics and formations on the fly during firefights despite never having used guns before. Otherwise, they're of average outlook and just above-average intelligence.
    • To be fair, it might be a result of having their memories erased when they are put in the Maze.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Sometimes in the second book. Jorge and Brenda's early characterization is more or less jettisoned with the explanation that WICKED forced them to play certain parts to test the protagonists.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Every Glader has had all his memories of his life before the Glade erased, save for their names.
  • Love Triangle: One appears in the second book, although, due to all the running from death and what not, it never really takes center stage.
  • Meet Cute: Thomas, meet Theresa.
  • Mobile Maze: All the main characters are trapped in a small, protected area called the Glade, which is inside a giant maze that rearranges itself every night.
  • Named After Somebody Famous / Shout-Out Theme Naming: The Gladers' names are not their real names, but names based on scientists and inventors and such that were planted in their memories.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast:
    • W. I. C. K. E. D. It doesn't stand for anything good, either: "World In Catastrophe: Killzone Experiment Department."
    • The Right Arm. It's a rebel organization devoted to fighting WICKED.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Why Thomas doesn't want to kill Newt after he gets the Flare.
  • Oh, Crap: Several moments; the best example is when the wall that protects the Gladers from Grievers doesn't close one night, leaving them easy prey. Another good example is in the final book when Thomas realizes that the Right Arm is going to blow up the WICKED headquarters. While he, his friends, and the rest of the Immunes are still inside it.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: WICKED used to have one, but they all elected to commit suicide before they succumbed to the Flare, leaving Chancellor Paige, Thomas, and Theresa more or less in charge. The various scientists working the project act as one.
  • Ontological Mystery: The Maze Runner has the main protagonists trapped in a maze. The sequel, The Scorch Trials, is about them trapped in the deserts of a future Earth.
  • The Plague: The disease known as the Flare. It was released by certain governments as a population control virus so that there would be less overflow to deal with in the aftermath of the super-solar flare strike on the Earth. Unfortunately, it targeted everyone.
  • Plague Zombie: The people with the Flare virus as of The Scorch Trials.
  • Population Control: It's revealed in the epilogue that the disease known as the Flare was initially supposed to be this, but it got out of control.
  • Properly Paranoid: Thomas and Minho are totally justified in being this, and it has saved their lives on a few occasions.
  • Psychic Link: Between Thomas and Teresa, and later Aris (who had this with Thomas' Group B counterpart, Rachel. Brenda, momentarily, who hacked into the hotline to tell Thomas things are gonna get worse.
  • Reality Warper: What the WICKED organization can essentially do; the extravagant resources they've been granted resulted in skyrocketing technology levels and analytical capabilities to predict the outcomes of even ridiculously chaotic events.
  • The Reveal: There are a series of reveals throughout the books that, when strung together, give a coherent version of the backstory. Sometime in the past, a solar flare intense enough to make it through our atmosphere caught the earth, frying it between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. The resulting rampant destitution made relief attempts almost impossible, so to lessen the burden some genius came up with the incredibly smart plan to release a population control disease so there would be less people to deal with. The virus, soon to be known as the Flare, mutated into a Hate Plague that almost the entire Earthís population caught. In order to combat it, the world's governments formed WICKED, tasked with finding a cure. WICKEDís approach was to brain-map the immune and try to transfer that immunity to the public. Unfortunately, the brain-mapping required would be ridiculously detailed and ultimately impossible. The first two novels in their entirety were stress tests used to remotely map the protagonistís brain patterns. The Maze, the Grievers, and the Scorch were all governed by WICKEDís ridiculously advanced structural- and bio-engineering, in an attempt to create the blueprint for a cure, that will require the brain of the Final Candidate to (maybe) be made a reality. Meanwhile, the "quarantined" cities are succumbing to infection due to corruption and selfishness.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Chuck makes it only to the end of the first book, having become True Companions with Thomas and being treated like everyone's annoying kid brother. He also figures out the final part of shutting down the Maze.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Newt in The Death Cure
  • [[Solar Flare Disaster: spoiler: How the world was destroyed before the series began.]]
  • Spanner in the Works: Thomas and Minho finally get in on some Spanner action at the beginning of the third book. Everything previous to that was planned by WICKED and there was no point at which they were not under WICKED's control.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Thomas in The Death Cure when WICKED is trying to remove his brain.
  • Technically Living Zombie: The Cranks.
  • Teen Genius: Sounds like most of the kids were something of one, but Thomas and Teresa take the prize. Most of them are not seen in action, though, making their genius something of an Informed Ability.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Jorge pulls off one in his introduction.
  • Unusual Euphemism: The Gladers have several of these. "Klunk" means "feces," "shank" means "guy," and "shuck" is just an all-purpose euphemism.
  • Viral Transformation: Happens to victims of the Flare, including Newt.
  • The Virus: The Flare.
  • Welcome Episode: The first several chapters of The Maze Runner start with Thomas having amnesia and being unkindly welcome by the surviving group in the Maze.
  • Wham Episode: Around Chapter 17, when Thomas jumps into the Maze with Alby and Minho. Alby has been stung by a Griever, and the doors to the Glade shut behind them, trapping the three boys for the night. The previous chapters weren't exactly pretty, but things get bad at this point.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: At one point in the story, Teresa psychologically and physically tortures Thomas to a severe extent, as requested by WICKED, and she believed it was for the best. When Thomas recovers from the ordeal, he is understandably angry at her, especially since she didn't try to find another way to go about things. He never really forgives her and is completely turned off to her for the rest of the series.
  • X Meets Y: James Dashner was inspired to write the books after reading Enders Game and Lord of the Flies.

And remember, WICKED is good.
Maximum RideYoung Adult LiteratureThe Mediator
MatchedScience Fiction LiteratureA Martian Odyssey
Maximum RideLiterature of the 2000sThe Mediator

alternative title(s): The Maze Runner
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from
Privacy Policy