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Thomas wakes up in a swaying metal elevator, cranking upward in darkness. The only thing he remembers is his first name. When the elevator clanks to a stop, the doors at the top are opened, revealing a group of boys. They pull Thomas up with a rope and say “Welcome to the Glade.”
Thomas finds himself in a giant, square courtyard surrounded by 100-foot stone walls. Each wall has a wide opening in the center. Thomas sees crops, animals, a forest, and a wood building. He’s surrounded by about 60 jostling, joking boys who call him “shank,” “shuck,” and “greenbean.” Alby, a dark-skinned boy who seems to be in charge, tells Thomas that this is a bad place, but that everyone here came out of the Box and adjusted to life in the Glade. Alby promises Thomas a tour the next day, but Thomas, confused and upset, wants information now. Newt, a friendly blond boy who speaks with a British accent, joins in the conversation, but before Thomas can learn about the Glade, there’s a piercing, inhuman scream from the wood building. Alby and Newt leave, telling Thomas to find Chuck, who will show him where to sleep.
Thomas sees a metallic bug on a tree, and Chuck tells him it’s a beetle blade and will sting if touched. Chuck is a pudgy young boy who came up in the Box a month before Thomas. The shrieking continues from the wood house, and Chuck tells Thomas that the person screaming is a boy named Ben who was “stung” by a “Griever.” Chuck says Ben will recover as long as they can administer Grief serum to him. Thomas, wanting answers, goes to the wood house. The three-story building is rickety and haphazardly built.
Gally, a bully with a bulbous nose and missing teeth, confronts Thomas and says he knows he doesn’t belong there. Gally says that he was stung by a Griever, and that while he suffered through the painful process called “the Changing,” he saw Thomas in his visions. Thomas insists on going upstairs to find Newt. When he opens the door to an upstairs bedroom, he sees Alby and Newt bent over a bruised boy who is writhing in pain, with ropelike green veins pulsing under his skin. Alby pushes Thomas out of the room and threatens him. Thomas leaves with Chuck, who says they should get food from a boy called Frypan.
Chuck and Thomas eat ham sandwiches beneath a tree, and Thomas asks about the four openings, one in each of the massive stone walls of the courtyard. Chuck explains that they are doors that close at night, which surprises Thomas, because they seem too enormous to move. Chuck tells Thomas that the courtyard is set in a giant maze and warns Thomas not to enter. While Chuck and Thomas watch, four boys run in through the doors and enter a concrete building in the Glade. Shortly afterward, the giant stone walls slide into a locked position, sealing the Glade off from the Maze. Chuck tells Thomas that the boys are called Maze Runners.
Chuck plays a practical joke on Gally, tapping on the bathroom window and screaming to scare him. After pranking Gally, Chuck and Thomas run away, but Gally chases after them. He again tells Thomas that he knows Thomas is trouble because of what he saw during his Changing. While Chuck and Thomas are in their sleeping bags in the garden that night, Thomas is struck by the feeling that he’s been to the Glade before, and that it’s not as bad as it seems. He struggles to remember anything specific about his life before the Glade. Before he falls asleep, he tells Chuck he wants to become a Maze Runner.
The opening chapter of The Maze Runner introduces an important aspect of the novel’s hostile setting: limited sensory input. This lack of sensory input functions as a form of psychological warfare against important characters. When Thomas is in the Box, he is deprived of his sight completely, which is disorienting and upsetting. However, Thomas does become more attuned to the ominous noises of grinding metal around him. He makes a comparison of these sounds to those of an ancient steel factory. This suggests that he may remember more than he realizes and offers a brief glimmer of hope in the darkness. Ultimately, though, the lack of sensory input foreshadows the harsh reality of the Glade. In this dark environment devoid of clues, Thomas has no real factual knowledge to guide him forward. With his memory nearly gone and his senses limited, Thomas has been rendered helpless in these moments of ascent into the Glade.
The perils of being an outsider is first introduced as a recurring theme in Chapter 2. Though the Gladers are all children and therefore share this inherent congruity, they offer no comfort to new arrivals. Instead, their mocking and withholding of information about the Glade serves to demoralize newcomers so that they will quickly fall in line with the societal structure and pecking order of the Glade. Their use of unfamiliar words such as shank and klunk are not only meant to demean Thomas but they are also a symbol of belonging to and ownership of residence in the Glade. The Gladers use these and other foreign insults to ostracize Thomas and manipulate him into easily accepting his Greenie title and inferior rank. Their methods are initially effective; Thomas begins to feel that they are his captors and the Glade his prison. Later in these chapters, as he sets himself apart from previous newbies by resisting the Glade’s leaders, Thomas reinforces his outsider status and uses it as a weapon to protect his independence.
Though Thomas has embraced his ostracization and initially rejects Chuck’s offer of friendship, Chuck’s persistence introduces the theme of the importance of friendship. In this harsh world, friendship is not just for pleasure; it is critical for survival. Chuck’s childish behavior is irritating to Thomas, but as the least secretive Glader, he becomes Thomas’s sole purveyor of information and only friend. Thomas understands that, as the previous Greenie, Chuck’s knowledge is limited. But Chuck’s basic revelations about life in the Glade serve several higher functions for Thomas. First, they trigger Thomas’s suspicion that some mysterious “they” is responsible for wiping out his memory. Additionally, Chuck’s apparent prattle becomes a catalyst for Thomas’s most important epiphany yet: Though he is treated as a newbie, he has actually been there before. Chuck’s escape after pranking the bully Gally also demonstrates to Thomas that the Gladers’ ranking structure may be flawed and that not all bullies need be feared. In tolerating a friendship with the youngest Glader, Thomas gains insights that will become crucial for survival in his coming days in the Glade.