The Maze Runner (series) | Study Guide

James Dashner

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The Maze Runner (series) | The Death Cure | Summary


About the Title

The Death Cure references Thomas's journey to discover the truth about WICKED's origins. It explains why they value him so highly in their search for a cure for the Flare.


WICKED holds Thomas in solitary confinement for three weeks. The entire time, Thomas's rage grows and he swears to seek revenge against those in charge. Rat Man, the same man who told the Gladers about the Scorch trials, finally lets Thomas out of his cell. He explains the trials are over. He says WICKED has come very close to finding a cure for the Flare, which some of the Gladers are immune to. He reunites Thomas with the rest of the surviving crew, including Minho, Newt, and Teresa. He tells them surgeons have arrived to remove the Swipes in their brains, and after the surgery, their memories will return. They learn that almost all the Gladers are immune to the Flare except for Newt. Thomas also learns that Jorge and Brenda work for WICKED and were under contract to follow him through the Scorch trials.

To everyone's surprise, Thomas, Minho, and Newt refuse to have their Swipes removed. They claim they will no longer willingly participate in any WICKED activities. Rat Man tries to force them into having the surgery, but Brenda, who arrives as the surgeon's aide, helps Thomas escape. Sprinting through the hallways at WICKED headquarters, Thomas rounds up as many Gladers as he can find to escape to a nearby Berg. Jorge knows how to fly the Berg. Guards fight the Gladers at every turn, and one electrocutes Thomas with a new weapon called a "Launcher." But he manages to climb aboard the Berg before takeoff. They decide to travel to Denver, Colorado. They have heard Denver acts a fortress against the Flare, and as "Immunes," they will easily find work. They also know a defected WICKED doctor named Hans lives there and may be able to remove WICKED hardware from their brains.

After landing in Denver, Newt stays aboard the Berg, not wanting to bring the Flare inside the city. The rest of the Gladers walk around the city searching for Hans. A man approaches them at a shopping mall with a note from Gally, who also managed to escape WICKED and move to Denver. The Gladers meet Gally at his hideout. He now works for the Right Arm, an organization dedicated to destroying WICKED. Gally claims Denver is actually riddled with the Flare, although an extensive cover-up keeps that from public knowledge. He also warns the Gladers are in great danger because those immune to the Flare—"Munies"—are being rapidly kidnapped around the city. After deciding they trust Gally's information, the Gladers decide to work with the Right Arm to help destroy WICKED.

From there, the Gladers rush to find Hans, whom they locate in a secret hideout. He agrees to help remove WICKED hardware from their brains, but WICKED manages to control Thomas as Hans approaches him. Thomas grabs a knife and tries to attack Hans, but Minho and the other Gladers subdue him. Hans removes the chip from his brain. After, the Gladers stop at a coffee shop where armed guards give random tests to customers to ensure they aren't infected with the Flare. Guards realize a drug-addicted man has been infected and pounce on him. Everyone flees the violent scene, but a guard grabs Thomas who lingers too long at the scene. When he discovers Thomas to be immune, he attempts to kidnap him. As the guard drags Thomas through town, WICKED police arrive and shoot the guard. Rat Man appears through a screen and begs Thomas to return to WICKED headquarters to complete the trials. He claims Thomas is the "sole candidate" that could save humanity.

Thomas rejoins his friends, and they return to the Berg to discover Newt missing. Guards have discovered him as a carrier of the Flare and taken him to live in "Crank Palace" with the rest of the infected population. They rush to the Palace and learn that Newt has declined considerably since arriving in Denver. He threatens to shoot the Gladers with a Launcher, warning them to stay away from him. Smelling fresh meat in their territory, a gang of Cranks attacks the Gladers, who fight their way back to the Berg. There, another group of bounty hunters waits to kidnap them. They take the Gladers to another compound, where, after Minho attacks one of the guards, they learn the bounty hunters actually work for the Right Arm. Thomas demands to speak to someone in charge, and one guard offers to take him and Brenda to the Right Arm headquarters. There, they meet Gally and Vince, who explain they have been kidnapping Munies to sell to WICKED as a way of infiltrating the organization. Thomas agrees to return to WICKED headquarters. When he arrives, Thomas tells Rat Man he has agreed to complete the trials. In reality he plants a device that will scramble the computers of all WICKED weapons, rendering them unusable.

Rat Man informs Thomas that as the final candidate, they will be removing his brain for further research about immunity to the Flare. Horrified, Thomas refuses to give his life to WICKED, but it's too late. Rat Man and a surgeon drug Thomas and drag him to the operating table. When Thomas returns to consciousness, he finds a note and folder from Chancellor Paige. The note explains that WICKED has been kidnapping Munies to restart the trials. Chancellor Paige says if Thomas can rescue them, she has secured a Flat Trans to a secure location. The folder contains maps of where the Munies have been hidden, and Thomas quickly realizes they have been hidden in the Maze. Thomas runs quickly through the hallways, reuniting with Gladers along the way. They return to the Maze and organize for the Munies to follow them to safety. Explosions suddenly rock the Maze as the Right Wing follows through with its plan to destroy WICKED regardless of human causality. As the Gladers and Munies sprint through the Maze, many are killed by falling debris as the building collapses around them. When they escape through the Flat Trans back into WICKED headquarters, a gang of Grievers awaits them. More die in the fight as Thomas and Teresa work to disable each attack animal. As they shepherd Munies through Chancellor Paige's Flat Trans, Rat Man and a group of guards arrive. The two groups fight viciously, and Thomas kills Rat Man with his bare hands. One final explosion knocks a huge rock from the ceiling, and Teresa pushes Thomas away from danger. The rock crushes and kills her instead. Heartbroken, Thomas leaps through the Flat Trans. More than 200 Munies and Gladers have survived. The safe zone Chancellor Paige secured ensures the survival of humanity. In the epilogue, Chancellor Paige writes that hopefully these survivors, the "best and brightest," will be able to start fresh. She also admits the government released the Flare as a means of population control. She states WICKED has worked ever since to find a cure to right that wrong.



In The Death Trials Thomas encounters two authoritarian organizations, WICKED and the Right Arm. Authoritarian organizations concern themselves solely with their principal goals, regardless of individual opinion or desires. One key characteristic of authoritarian organizations is the use of force to eliminate threats. This can be seen in WICKED's violent treatment of those who oppose its rule, as well as the Right Arm's violent plan to end WICKED. The danger of authoritarian rule, of course, is the misuse of power. This can clearly be seen in WICKED's treatment of the Gladers and the Right Arm's misguided explosions at the end of the novel.

For WICKED, the principal goal is finding a cure for the Flare. For the Right Arm, the principal goal is destroying WICKED. Neither organization cares what individual members think, particularly if those ideas conflict with its primary goal. WICKED doesn't care what happens to any of its test subjects, with the exception of their candidate Thomas. The organization allows horrific things to happen to its subjects for the sake of research, including extreme pain, suffering, emotional distress, and death. WICKED manipulates Gladers into making terrible decisions, such as when Gally murdered Chuck, all for the sake of experimentation. It doesn't care about Gally's emotional suffering—the organization simply wants to know how Thomas will respond. Their single-minded ambition leads it to treat humans as expendable resources.

Similarly, the Right Arm emerges as a challenge to WICKED's authoritarianism. To save humans from cruel experimentation, the Right Arm seeks to destroy WICKED. Like WICKED, however, the Right Arm becomes so single-minded in its goal that it loses sight of consequences. When the Right Arm bombs WICKED headquarters, the organization knows hundreds of innocent humans are inside, but it doesn't care. Like WICKED, it is willing to inflict catastrophic human casualty to reach its goal.

In both organizations, individuals take control and refuse to relinquish it, regardless of the consequences. Rat Man ruthlessly pursues a cure for the Flare because he himself has been infected. He expects Thomas to sacrifice himself to "the greater good" without acknowledging that the greater good might have changed. Rat Man never considers that sacrificing all the Munies might be a mistake because he wouldn't benefit from any other outcome. Similarly, Vince and Gally refuse to budge from their plan of bombing WICKED, despite innocent human casualties. They believe this might be their only opportunity. However, if all the Munies were to die in the explosion, their cause would be for nothing.

Character Development

Thomas has matured from a frightened child to a calculating, violent adult who will stop at nothing to survive. In The Maze Runner Thomas emerges from the Box with a strong sense of morality. He puts himself in danger to save others, and he would never do anything to harm another person. In The Scorch Trials Thomas kills a Crank while underground with Brenda, and he feels extreme remorse. He questions his morality, wondering whether he's just as bad as WICKED because he, too, will kill for his own survival. By The Death Order Thomas has given up his moral purity and has matured into a young man willing to fight, injure, and kill to survive. He kills Cranks, guards, Rat Man, and in the climax of his character's growth, shoots Newt. Despite his violence and killings, Thomas maintains moralistic integrity because he only kills when he's forced to, primarily out of self-defense. Although Thomas's goal is to survive, he never kills indiscriminately, as the Right Arm does when it bombs WICKED's headquarters. Thomas has matured in his understanding of the kill-or-be-killed world, yet he never exploits death to give himself better survival odds.

Thomas learns that his actions, not his past, determine his identity. After having all his memories wiped, Thomas creates himself anew. He can be anything he likes—a leader, a bully, a follower—and he chooses to be honest, brave, and loyal. When given the opportunity to have his memories returned, Thomas refuses. As far as he's concerned in The Death Cure, who he was in the past won't change anything: his self-identity, relationships, and goals are solidified. The Thomas from The Maze Runner would have done anything, including being attacked by a Griever, to access the memories from his past.

Suffering and Madness

For Cranks, the emotional suffering of the Flare is often worse than the physical. Once infected with the disease, individuals know they will slowly descend into madness, and there is no cure for their disease. With nothing left to lose, many Cranks lose their humanity, completely succumbing to their base, often violent, desires even before they have lost their sanity. Governments created "Crank Palace" as a refuge for Cranks to live out their final days surrounded by those like them. It was also built to protect the rest of the population from infection, of course. Rather than enjoy their end time in peace, Crank Palace becomes overrun with debauchery and violence. Cranks no longer act, or interact, as humans. Newt turns his back on his friends after becoming infected, refusing to accept their help or affection. Newt claims he doesn't want to risk spreading the disease. Since all his friends are immune, it's more likely he doesn't want them to see him descend into madness. Rather than suffer the horrific fate of the Flare, Newt begs Thomas to kill him.

The only respite from their suffering is Bliss, the expensive medical treatment only the rich can afford to slow the process of decay. Bliss symbolizes the way humanity ignores the pain and suffering around them. For many the only emotional reprieve available is disengaging from the suffering in our world. Although, just like with the rich Cranks that can afford Bliss, disengaging is a luxury the poor cannot afford.


Thomas will never be free as long as WICKED exists. Thomas starts his journey trapped in a literal maze. When he escapes and thinks he's free, he finds himself in another experiment, and then another. He tries to exert his freedom by refusing to have his Swipe removed, and WICKED finds another way to control his body. When he runs away it tracks him down. Even at the end of the novel, when Thomas "escapes" WICKED, he does so by following the orders of another government employee. This leaves readers questioning whether the true safe zone Chancellor Paige created is just that or whether it's another test.

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