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Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 941

The Maze Runner by James Dashner is about Thomas and his arrival in the Glade, a place where a number of boys are trapped. He becomes a Runner who helps explore the Maze, comes to realize that he's one of the people who trapped them there, and eventually leads a group of Gladers out into the world.

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At the beginning of The Maze Runner, Thomas is in a dark elevator. He doesn't know who he is, where he came from, or where he's going. A group of teenage boys help him out of the lift and tell him that he's arrived in the Glade.

The Glade is surrounded by high walls with doors that open during the day and close at night. The walls protect the Glade from the Maze, where monsters called Grievers roam at night. Grievers are a hybrid of animal and robot—and they kill the boys when they catch them. When a person is stung by a Griever, they end up in a lot of pain but also remember flashes of their past. This is called the Changing.

None of the boys know why they're there, who they were before, or how to get out. Some of the boys have been there for two years.

Thomas is introduced to the community and the other boys. They include:

  • Alby, the leader of the Glade. He was in the first group to arrive in the Glade.
  • Minho, the Keeper of the Runners. He manages the people who go out and explore the maze, as well as exploring the maze himself.
  • Newt, who works with Alby.
  • Gally, who went through the Changing and warns the others that Thomas is evil. 
  • Chuck, a young, chubby boy who instantly likes Thomas. He was the greenbean—new arrival—before Thomas. He helps Thomas acclimate to the Maze.

Thomas has to spend time with every Keeper. Keepers are the heads of their own parts of the Glade. For example, Minho is in charge of the Runners, so he's the Keeper of the Runners. Thomas is instantly intrigued by the idea of being a Runner and says he wants to be one.

The next day, the elevator comes back with Teresa. She, like the boys, doesn't know who she is or where she's from. A note that accompanies her says, "She is the last one. Ever."

Before she wakes up from fainting, Alby and Minho appear in the Maze. They're trying to get to the doors before they shut for the night and trap them in the Maze, but Alby can't move fast, because he was stung by a Griever. Since he isn't a Runner, Thomas isn't allowed to go into the Maze. He decides that he has to help and breaks the rule, getting trapped outside with Alby and Minho.

Thomas and Minho tie Alby up high to keep the Grievers away and then trick the Grievers into running over the edge of a cliff. They're the first people to survive the night in the Maze, but Thomas is still going to be brought before the Council of Keepers for punishment. Despite his heroics, he broke the most important rule in the Glade.

In the end, he only spends one day in jail, and the Council allows him to become a Runner. Minho explains how being a Runner works—they make maps of the section to which they're assigned to look for a way to escape or at least a clue about why they're stuck in the Glade.

When Teresa wakes up, she and Thomas communicate telepathically. He's the only one able to talk to her that way, and they decide to keep it a secret from the others. She explains that her arrival is the catalyst that causes the end of the Glade. That night, the doors don't close, and Grievers attack. After someone is killed, Thomas decides that he needs to recover his memories.

He lets a Griever sting him and remembers that the way to escape the Maze is something called the Griever Hole. Unfortunately, that's where all the Grievers gather when they aren't patrolling the Maze. Most of the boys and Teresa decide to go with Thomas to the Griever Hole. Alby and half of the boys die in the battle at the Griever Hole, but the rest escape.

When they step out of the Maze, they meet a woman who is associated with WICKED, who made the Maze. She explains that the boys were undergoing trials to see who was best able to survive in the harsh new world created by the Flare, a series of sun flares that wrecked electronic equipment and caused a disease that slowly drives people to madness. Before she's done explaining, Gally—who left the Glade with the Griefers before the group left—appears and throws a knife at Thomas. It hits Chuck, who steps out to protect Thomas.

Wracked with grief, Thomas sobs over Chuck's body. Then an armed group bursts in, kills the woman from WICKED, and takes the Gladers away on a bus. They explain the Maze experiment, the Flare, and what the world is like. The experiment was designed to find young people who could survive the effects of the Flare. At the end of the story, the Gladers are safe for the first time and sitting on their bunks in a facility with the people who rescued them.

An epilogue takes the form of a memo from Ava Paige, called The Chancelor. She explains that the group did well on the Maze experiment, that there is another group's data to consider, and that they'll start the next tests soon.

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