James Dashner’s The Maze Runner is another successful young-adult dystopian novel in the vein of books like The Giver and The Hunger Games. You can encourage students to think about the elements in today’s society that are contributing to the popularity of dystopian science fiction as they read this book. Dystopian fiction often examines social problems and is applicable to current events, so students should analyze and discuss what The Maze Runner says about the world today.

While writing The Maze Runner, James Dashner was strongly influenced by Lord of the Flies, and you can draw parallels between Dashner’s work and William Golding’s classic. The Maze Runner can be read in conjunction with Lord of the Flies, or you could compare passages from one to the other to help students study and evaluate these two depictions of a microcosm. Students can examine the type of society adolescent boys create and how such a community resembles and differs from modern day. With the popularity of the film franchise underway, a book-to-film comparison is another means by which you could engage your students.

In general, The Maze Runner offers an exciting—albeit terrifying—world readers can escape to and invest in. They will root for these young adults and recognize themselves in them.

Need further assistance through the maze? Below, you’ll find Prestwick House’s 9 Simple Goals for How to Teach The Maze Runner.

1. Summarize The Maze Runner

Thomas wakes up in a metal box with no memory of who he is. The doors open to reveal a place called the Glade where a community of boys lives. Beyond the wall that surrounds the Glade is the Maze, which is full of monsters called Grievers. A group of runners venture into the Maze to attempt to map it and find a path to freedom. The day after Thomas arrives, a girl is delivered to the Glade—with a note that no other children will follow. Her arrival triggers a change in the Maze, which causes monsters to invade the Glade. As the children try to solve the Maze and Thomas seeks to regain his memories, they discover that they are test subjects in an experiment conducted by a group called WICKED.

Content Warning: The Maze Runner depicts violence and death among children.

2. Identify Objectives for Teaching The Maze Runner :

  • Identify elements of dystopian fiction apparent in The Maze Runner.
  • Trace how characters’ goals and motivations evolve throughout the novel.
  • Discuss the symbolic significance of the Maze, the Glade, the Box, and the sun.
  • Describe how Dashner characterizes the major characters and compare characters’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • Explain the role gender plays in character interactions.
  • Note the two types of conflict present: man vs. man and man vs. society.

3. Pinpoint Key Facts and Literary Elements

Key Facts

  • Publication Date: 2007
  • Length: 375 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 770L
  • Recommended Grade Band: 6-8

Literary Elements

  • Allusion
  • Dystopia
  • Flashback
  • Foreshadowing
  • In medias res
  • Microcosm
  • Symbol
  • Tone

4. Understand Themes and Motifs

  • Identity – Before the boys are tossed into the Glade, their memories are erased. Thomas seeks to understand both who he is and where he came from.
  • Freedom – Some of the boys want to regain their freedom; some are content with their relatively safe lives in the Glade.
  • Survival – The boys must learn to survive on their own, building a new society in the process.

5. Explore Related Works

Theme of Identity

Theme of Freedom

Theme of Survival

6. Employ Films and Other External Resources

7. Consider What Your Students Will Love

  • The feeling of delving into the unknown as they wonder: What’s inside the Maze? Who put the boys in the Glade, and why?
  • The suspenseful cliffhangers

8. Anticipate What Your Students May Struggle With

  • The slang invented for the book—the characters in The Maze Runner use slang words invented by the author, and this results in some unnatural-sounding dialogue.
  • The allegations of misconduct against the author, James Dashner

9. Order The Maze Runner Resources from Prestwick House:

Resource Format
The Maze Runner Paperback Student Edition
The Maze Runner Teaching Unit Reproducible Downloadable 30-Book Set