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The Maze Runner is a young adult post apocalyptic dystopian science fiction novel, written by James Dashner. This text strategically approaches symbolism to denote the contrast of civilisation versus savagery, and how people can lose humanity when order fails. The ‘Gladers’ all have an undying pursuit of order, but are forced to resort back to their primal, savage nature due to the stressful and dangerous environment, the maze, that they reside in. The circumstances of this dystopian world symbolises how humans will succumb to their more animalistic characters when they are dehumanised.
Dashner has constructed characters such as Alby to utilise fear for control, to signify the descent into savagery among the boys in the maze. The Glade’s dark and systemized barbarity is vaguely concealed by order and stability. Although the Glade’s laws and orders were made as an attempt to prevent violence and rebellions, cruel and overly violent punishments seemed to be a necessity that came with the peace. The leader of the Gladers, Alby, maintains the order with fear, often death-threatening the boys, telling them that “if you ain’t scared, then you ain’t human”. Ben’s banishment was obvious evidence that fear was used within the Glade to control the Gladers. The extreme savagery of this action and the fact that the boys all enjoyed watching Ben’s banishment proposes that the Glade is inhumane and brutal, but is concealed by pretend security and order. Most of the Gladers believe that banishment as a punishment is necessary, because “all (they) care about is surviving”. They believe that “order’s the reason (they) put Ben out”, as they “can’t very well have loonies runnin’ around tryin’ to kill people.” Thomas, the ‘Greenie’, feels a sense of guilt for Ben when he witnesses the torturous treatment towards him, highlighting how the Glade is governed by savage laws. Feeling that this is neither benevolent nor virtuous, Thomas is able to see that the Glade’s orders are bent on the need for survival. Falling under this theme of expressing savagery are the creators, as they have chosen orphans as lab rats for a horrific experiment for what they believe are for good intentions. Presented by the actions of the Gladers, Dashner successfully shows that cataclysmic events can drive humans to resort to their most primitive and savage instincts.
Dashner presents the maze as a symbol for order versus chaos among the Gladers. Harnessing the purpose to confuse and obfuscate, the maze is ‘a dangerous place’ for the Gladers. The impossibility to map and solve the maze is increased as its walls move and shift each night. The routine and order in the otherwise chaotic, merciless maze is observable by how the doors close at the same time, every night. Figurative for futility and complete chaos for the Gladers are the Grievers, monsters that have no ethics or emotions, that haunt the maze each night. As the only one to see the maze as a obstacle between the Gladers and the world they have forgotten but long to find, Thomas learns that the maze is a symbol for chaos. Thomas is able to show the other Gladers how to benefit from apparent order within the maze that only he could see. Everyone else spends “every lovin’ second of every lovin’ day” in “honor of the maze, tryin’ to solve something that’s not shown (them) it has a bloody solution”, but Thomas recognises patterns within the maze and reveals a pattern. Eventually, by discovering the code, the Gladers learn from Thomas the symbolic meaning of the maze. This gave them a new way to look at their life in the maze and how the events that seem futile and chaotic at the beginning, when observed from a different perspective, can alter into order. The possibility of getting lost or dying is high in the maze. Taking a wrong turn in the Griever-filled labyrinth could result in death, so it is necessary to learn about the maze and everything it represents in order to discover the exit, which will grant the Glader’s access to reality. Dashner utilizes the maze as a symbol to show the contrast between order and chaos among the Gladers.
In conclusion, Dashner’s use of symbolism, metaphors, and the dystopian world he created denotes the human descent into savagery and animalistic characters, and the loss or order when chaos rises. Through the theme of fear to gain control, and the maze as a symbol, Dashner is able to convey the message that humanity can be lost when order fails. As a symbolic and metaphoric text, Dashner has ensured that readers will see the maze as a figurative example of society with his distinct use of techniques.
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