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 our top teaching tips for The Maze Runner.

Summary of The Maze Runner

Key Facts

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

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 ventures 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.

What Your Students Will Love About The Maze Runner

  • 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

Potential Student Struggles With The Maze Runner

  • 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

Learning Objectives for 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 the 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.

Literary Elements in The Maze Runner

  • Allusion
  • Dystopia
  • Flashback
  • Foreshadowing
  • In medias res
  • Microcosm
  • Symbol
  • Tone
  • And more!

Major Themes in The Maze Runner

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.

Related Works:

Freedom — Some of the boys want to regain their freedom; some are content with their relatively safe lives in the Glade.

Related Works:

Survival — The boys must learn to survive on their own, building a new society in the process.

Related Works:

Other Resources for The Maze Runner

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

This free guide was originally posted in April 2018. It has been updated as of March 2021.