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The Maze Runner and Lord of the Flies

The Hunger GamesGoneBattle RoyaleThe Maze Runner are all recent YA novels which share a common source of inspiration – William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. With the release of the final film in The Maze Runner series, The Death Cure, it’s an ideal time to revisit the original novel in the trilogy, and explore its relationship with Lord of the Flies.

James Dashner has repeatedly cited Lord of the Flies as one of his main points of inspiration, as well as the TV show Lost, which of course has its own roots in Golding’s novel. Most of the reviews of the book and film adaptation mention Lord of the Flies, with a particular focus on characterisation. The book’s premise is also similar, despite being more futuristic, and like almost all of the novels stated at the beginning of this article, has one crucial difference from Lord of the Flies. The boys on Golding’s island arrived there by accident, but in The Hunger Games, the teenagers are forced to survive in the arena, the children in Battle Royale are chosen at random to fight each other, and in The Maze Runner, there’s a much larger force at work to imprison the boys in ‘The Glade’. In these books, the situations faced by the teenagers are controlled, often secretly, by adults. This, of course, doesn’t imply that the adults are there to prevent tragedies; indeed, perhaps the most chilling moment in The Maze Runner is the Epilogue in which a memo from the Chancellor states that:

‘the boy’s murder and the “rescue” proved to be a valuable finale’.

The Maze Runner begins with the protagonist, Thomas (the only thing about himself he can remember), waking up in a metal cage. He is pulled from the cage by a group of male children and teenagers into ‘The Glade’, a vast courtyard surrounded by walls. Much like the imprisoning waves of the Pacific Ocean in Lord of the Flies, these walls prevent the boys from leaving. The huge doors which open during the day lead to the maze, which the boys have been trying to solve, but these close at night with some ceremony. The doors keep out the Grievers – The Maze Runner‘s ‘beast’, although the chosen maze runners are at risk from the Grievers’ stings.

In true Lord of the Flies fashion, there is a battle for leadership. The boys are led by Alby, with Newt second in command, but Dashner’s version of Jack – Gally – claims unofficial leadership for himself:

‘I’m the real leader here, not the two geezer shanks upstairs. Me. You can call me Captain Gally if you want.’

Gally is aghast when Thomas is nominated to become Keeper of the Runners and repeatedly interrupts during the meeting. He also consistently bullies Chuck, ‘a podgy boy’, who very much represents Golding’s Piggy.  Thomas rejects Chuck’s friendship at the beginning of the novel, but as events unfold, Chuck and Thomas become good friends, and Thomas attempts to defend him against Gally’s bullying. At the book’s conclusion, Gally has been ‘taken over’ by the mysterious organisation, and tries to kill Thomas. In an act of supreme self-sacrifice, Chuck throws himself in front of the knife, saving Thomas, but is mortally wounded in the process. Just like at the end of Lord of the Flies, with Ralph’s tears at ‘the fall through the air of the true wise friend called Piggy’, Thomas is unable to celebrate solving the puzzle of the maze:

‘It hurts. Feels like I lost a brother … Chuck didn’t make it’.

The Maze Runner does lack the nuance of Lord of the Flies. Gally is clearly the antagonist from the very beginning and sets himself apart from the other boys. Golding’s Jack is a much more complex character, with Ralph and Jack feeling a ‘shy liking’ towards each other at the start of the book. Ralph is more interested in creating a harmonious atmosphere on the island and working together, whereas Thomas is determined to solve the maze. Due to the interference of the adult world, and the ‘experiment’ that the boys are forced to take part in, their common enemy are the Grievers, the maze, and eventually, the WICKED corporation, rather than each other. The Maze Runner, therefore, is much less about human nature, and the extremes of survival, than its source of inspiration.