The Maze Runner (series) | Study Guide

James Dashner

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The Maze Runner (series) | The Fever Code | Summary

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About the Title

The Fever Code references the patterns of the Maze being mapped in the brains of those immune to the Flare.

Summary

The Fever Code tells the story of how the Maze was built. This novel brings readers from the time of Thomas's removal from his family to the moment WICKED drops him in the elevator to join the Maze.

The novel opens with the narrator describing WICKED soldiers removing Newt and his sister Lizzy from their home after killing their parents. Lizzy is immune to the Flare, but they take Newt as well as a control subject.

The narration flashes forward to five-year-old Stephen, recently removed from his home and being questioned by a cruel WICKED worker named Randall. This worker forces the boy to accept his new name: Thomas. When Stephen refuses, Randall implants a pain device in the boy's brain and tortures him until he admits his name is Thomas. WICKED holds Thomas in solitary confinement for three years, forcing him through a battery of tests, training, and medical exams. He senses other children in the building, but he never sees them. One day a doctor drags him to an operating room. Thomas sees another boy with a bloody, bandaged head—later revealed to be Minho—running away from doctors. He warns Thomas to escape. He also sees a boy named Newt in the recovering room, and another girl, Teresa, trying to escape from her doctors.

A month later, WICKED workers bring Thomas to a special room to meet another test subject, Teresa. Having spent years in solitary confinement, Thomas cannot wait to make a friend. He has a strange sense of déjà vu that he has met Teresa before but cannot place it. Thomas and Teresa meet once a week and form a deep friendship. After a few meetings, WICKED leader Chancellor Anderson announces that Thomas and Teresa have been selected to help build the Maze. It will be a complicated structure the rest of the test subjects will live in as WICKED studies their responses. That night Thomas realizes his bedroom door is unlocked. He plans to sneak out and visit secretly with Teresa, but before he has the chance the boy called Newt bursts into his room. Newt tells him many of the subjects have been meeting secretly at night and he and Teresa are welcome to join them. Thomas and Teresa meet Minho, Alby, and Gally, and they sneak around WICKED headquarters together. They travel through secret hallways and passageways to Group B—another dormitory for test subjects—and Newt points out his sister Lizzy in the crowd. For the first time in a long time, Thomas feels angry with WICKED for separating families.

The new band of friends meets secretly each night for the next few nights. One evening they sneak outside to look at the snow, and WICKED guards catch them. To scare them away from exploring life outside the compound, guards drag them to a Crank pit, where those infected with the Flare are held. The Cranks scream and harass the kids. One Crank holds a clipboard that says "WICKED IS GOOD" and begs the kids to find a cure. When they are returned to their rooms, the guards say WICKED has decided to resume their solitary confinement for at least a few years. About six months later, however, Teresa manages to use the hardware in her brain to speak to Thomas telepathically. Six months after that, Teresa manages to scramble the security cameras so the group can resume their nighttime meetings. They meet a cute new kid named Chuck, and Minho admits to plotting his escape from WICKED headquarters. The next day WICKED punishes Minho for his plan by strapping him down in a room with a Griever. They force Thomas, Teresa, Newt, and Chuck to watch the near attack on screens. Minho emerges completely traumatized.

Thomas continues working on the Maze daily with Teresa. When it's complete, his friends, including Minho and Newt, prepare to be inserted in the Maze. Thomas secretly brings Newt to Group B to say goodbye to Lizzy. Before their memories are wiped, Minho realizes Thomas and Teresa won't be joining them, and he feels betrayed. Thomas spends the next few months watching his friends' progress in the Maze, saddened that their memories have been wiped. One day Thomas watches as a Griever stings a boy named George. Rather than watch George suffer, Alby stabs and kills him. Later Newt tries to kill himself by jumping off the Maze walls. Thomas feels deeply disturbed by these two scenes and begins to lose trust in WICKED and its plan.

Two years later, Dr. Paige—the woman who will later become Chancellor Paige—alerts Thomas and Teresa that the Flare has infected many WICKED staff. The infected includes Chancellor Anderson. She enlists Flare-immune Thomas, Teresa, Aris, and Rachel to seek out and kill the 18 infected staff members. Thomas cannot imagine killing 18 people. But Teresa insists they aren't people anymore, and they've already given up too much to lose it all now. They successfully complete the Purge, much to Dr. Paige, now Chancellor Paige's satisfaction. Almost immediately, Thomas suspects Chancellor Paige, whom he previously trusted unequivocally, has lied to him about something, although he's unsure what.

That fall, Chancellor Paige introduces Thomas to WICKED agents Jorge and Brenda. They have been hired to scout locations for the second set of trials, which will take place in the Scorch. They send Thomas along to track the long-range capabilities of his hardware. Thomas realizes WICKED will continue to manipulate and "test" their subjects forever. He understands they are no closer to finding a cure than they were 10 years ago. Upon returning to WICKED headquarters, he concocts a plan to request his insertion into the Maze with his memories intact. Once inside, he will lead the Gladers in a revolt and an escape to a safe zone in a nearby city. He tells Teresa his plan, and she hesitantly agrees. Chancellor Paige agrees to the plan, although she credits Teresa for it and prepares Thomas for insertion. She gives him a cup of tea to calm his nerves, which Thomas realizes has been spiked. He passes out and his memories are removed before guards drop him in the elevator to the Maze.

In the epilogue, Chancellor Paige admits to infecting WICKED staff with the Flare to prevent them from stopping the trials after the Maze. A second memorandum from Teresa reveals she knew Thomas would have his memories erased. She says she and Aris would enter the Maze with their memories intact, allowing them to continue communication.

Analysis

Betrayal

Perhaps the biggest revelation in the final novel of The Maze Runner series is that Teresa was manipulating Thomas all along. The final memorandum in the epilogue reveals Teresa entered the Maze with her memories intact. She was working and communicating with Aris throughout the trials, and she monitored Thomas's behavior as a service to WICKED. These realizations cast the entire series in a new light as readers reassess Thomas's most important relationship. Teresa, it appears, was another complicated variable to measure Thomas's reactions. The reader now knows Teresa's memories were intact when she entered the Maze, not fading as she claimed. Writing WICKED IS GOOD on her arm was her idea. She formed a trusting relationship with Thomas in the Maze. She manipulated him through what she already knew about him and the other Gladers to motivate him through the Maze and the Scorch trials. She eventually led him to WICKED headquarters (hopefully) for his brain. Throughout the series Teresa remains steadfastly devoted to WICKED and their pursuit of the cure.

Readers will no doubt feel surprised by the realization that Teresa betrayed and continually lied to Thomas. Because this plot twist is revealed in the final lines of an epilogue, Dashner doesn't explore the new dynamic. While readers will undoubtedly be shocked by Teresa's loyalty, the surprise feels shallow. Without exploring Teresa's motivations, Thomas's reaction, or the result of her betrayal, the realization amounts to little more than shock value. Dashner's superficial treatment aligns with the general lack of character development as the series focuses on action and plot.

Bravery

The Fever Code presents different motivations for bravery. Minho, arguably one of the bravest characters in the series, exhibits his trademark machismo. He faces the world with fists clenched, always ready for a fight. Minho's brave actions are almost always motivated by his need to survive. Minho plans ways to escape WICKED headquarters, sustains multiple Griever attacks as punishment, and although weakened by the trauma, he never loses his fighting spirit. Minho always takes risks. He tries to run away from the doctors during his implant surgery, plots a risky escape, and is one of the first to enter the Maze.

Newt, who also exhibits Minho's bravery in the face of dangerous situations, shows bravery's sensitive side. Newt risks punishment by sneaking through headquarters to regularly check on his sister Lizzy. He watches her from above, but before entering the Maze he shows himself to Group B so he can say goodbye to his sister. Although typically motivated by love, Newt also shows some recklessness in his bravery. For example, he sneaks into Thomas's room after noticing the door hasn't properly locked.

Chancellor Paige and Teresa share a manipulative type of bravery. Both characters participate in morally questionable activities for what they believe is the greater good. Chancellor Paige infects WICKED staff with the Flare so they can be exterminated and she can take over the organization. Whatever her unknown motivations, she clearly believes her plan for the trials will have a greater impact on humanity than WICKED's previous plan. Similarly, Teresa remains devoutly loyal to WICKED and its plan. She exhibits true bravery as she manipulates Thomas and the rest of her friends when they might discover her ulterior motives, destroying WICKED's plans. Her actions directly contrast to those of Rat Man in previous novels. His heinous actions were motivated by fear of succumbing to the Flare. Similarly, characters like Randall and John Michael show bravery by trying to warn the children against WICKED and are killed. Thomas kills Randall, and Randall kills Michael. Both Randall and Michael put themselves in danger for what they believe to be the greater good.

Abuse of Power

In the post-Flare world, WICKED has all the power. Average people, like Thomas's and Newt's families, are simply trying to survive, to stay safe from radiation, and to feed their families. WICKED, on the other hand, has a seemingly endless supply of food, funds, and technology at its disposal, but they keep everything in house. When they need test subjects for the Maze, they simply take them from unsuspecting families rather than convincing families to invest in the greater good. Starving families escaping Cranks and perpetual radiation from the sun might be inclined to willingly send their children to a safer place. But WICKED prefers to kick down doors and kill anyone who stands in its way.

Once they have the children in their control, many WICKED employees abuse their power by abusing the children. Randall, in particular, seems to get a sadistic joy from torturing the children. He tortures Thomas into accepting his new name and punishes the children with the Crank Palace. WICKED employees also abuse their power when teaching Minho a lesson about escape. In reality they are using the opportunity to test the strength and reaction of the Grievers. The Maze itself could be seen as an enormous abuse of power. It forces unsuspecting children into a torture setting to chart their reactions, but certain events seem particularly heinous. The first use of anti-Griever serum, for example, strikes the reader and Thomas alike as horrific. WICKED uses human subjects like George to test the potency of their virus, knowing he will die.

Finally, Dr. Paige, who later becomes Chancellor Paige, abuses her power by convincing the children to partake in the Purge. She spends years building Thomas's trust only to exploit him by convincing him to kill 18 WICKED employees so she can take control of the organization.

Mercy

More than any other novel in The Maze Runner series, The Fever Code explores the theme of mercy. When faced with horrific realities, often one character takes pity on another and does something to put them out of their misery. For example, when the Griever attacks George and he contracts an accelerated version of the Flare, Alby stabs George in the neck. She kills him quickly rather than allowing him to suffer. This directly contrasts Randall killing John Michael in the Crank pit. Although the death could be seen as a mercy killing, Randall's motivation was keeping Michael from telling the kids anything classified about WICKED's plans. Similarly, Chancellor Paige describes the Purge as a series of mercy killings. The Purge means killing infected government leaders before they suffer too terribly, and also killing them before they can infect anyone else. But she fails to tell the children they are actually participating in the Purge to aid her ascent to power.

Characters also show mercy when sparing others from the reality of what they're facing. This can be seen clearly in Thomas and Teresa's nurturing relationship with Chuck. They regularly lie to the boy and shield him from the truth to protect his childish innocence. Thomas also shows mercy for Ben when he first arrives at WICKED headquarters. Thomas tells Ben that living in headquarters really isn't that bad and everyone is working together to find a cure. Thomas says these things as a mercy to the emotionally distraught newcomer, but as Thomas speaks he "call[s] himself a big fat liar the whole time."

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