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It just so happens that our protagonist in The Kill Order is a pretty young kid, even though you'd think he's in his mid-twenties by the way he acts (well, sometimes). Mark is constantly putting himself in danger to save others. Mre importantly, we can just tell that he's been through a lot.
Right away, we get a good sense of Mark's attitude:
It took a lot to surprise Mark these days, even more to make him blush … (2.25)
For someone as young as Mark, you'd think that every twist and turn in his adventure would be some kind of grand occurrence. Being surprised at new things is just an (awesome) accessory of being young. Unfortunately, Mark's been through so many horrific events that nothing seems to be intriguing to him anymore. Well, unless we're talking about Trina. She's the only one who can still make him surprised (and blush).
Nevertheless, Mark can still be pretty naïve. Throughout the book, he makes rash decisions (like speaking when he shouldn't, or attacking bad guys impulsively), and he ultimately proves to be a teensy bit childish. Not in a bad way, just in a young way. Even when his friends are in extreme danger—for example, when he can't find Trina, Deedee, or Lana—he lets his naiveté shine through:
Mark felt an almost competitive vibe take over him—he wanted to be the one to find something first. He had to, to make himself feel better, to feel like they'd been set on a path to relieve his panicked thoughts. (28.16)
Competitiveness: a clear sign of trying way too hard. Sometimes it's hard to imagine anyone less than a hardened, middle-aged vet taking on the tasks that Mark does—in the end, he martyrs himself for the good of mankind, and he's constantly kicking and punching and clawing his way through scuffles with crazy people.
He isn't your average kid. But remember: he's still just a kid.
We know you've been thinking it: Mark isn't exactly the same as Thomas, who's the protagonist and hero of the Maze Runner trilogy. Sure, they're both brave. Sure, they're both young. And sure, Mark goes bonkers over Trina like Thomas goes bonkers over Teresa (until she betrays him in the Scorch). But really, that's about it.
The differences, on the other hand, are definitely there. Remember back to when Thomas finds the sign in the Scorch that has his name on it? It reads, "Thomas, you're the real leader." Yup: the leader. That's what Thomas is—and that's what Mark definitely isn't.
When it comes to leading to pack (even if this so-called pack is only two people for half the book), Mark isn't exactly the man with the plan. He isn't going to be dashing through any closing doors of mazes anytime soon, and he certainly isn't going to be leading hundreds of people to the promised land. With Mark, you can assume he's taking up the rear of the group. At least, that's what he wants to do:
Mark followed him, relieved that his friend had taken charge again. (38.12)
Nope, Mark isn't a natural leader like Thomas. Leading is the job for Alec, whose military experience equips him with all of the macho traits he needs. Mark, on the other hand, is like a sidekick. He's there and he's ready to punch the snot out of a Crank, but he isn't the one you want in charge of a mission. Because if Mark were in charge… well, let's just say they wouldn't have made it to Asheville.
So Mark isn't the leader. We get it. But the other reason why he isn't Thomas is because he's a jokester… and Thomas definitely isn't. Mark is a nerdy kid who likes cracking jokes at all times. Just take a look at what he says to Trina, of all people:
"O wisest of the wise, maybe you can teach me this method of thinking not to think." (8.8)
Ah, so he's one of those kinds of people—the kind of witty-bantered dude who makes light of every situation… even one that is full of child-murder and cat-eating. And that's definitely a good thing: you need a jokey guy like Mark every bit as much as you need a large-and-in-charge go-getter like Thomas.
So who is Mark? You know, besides the fact that he's a teenager and that he's not Thomas? Well, Mark is the kind of kid who'd shout out, Think of the children! in a movie. He's a sweet, tenderhearted kid who just can't bear to see his life and his world falling apart.
So what does that mean? It means he's super-sentimental… to the point where survival is placed second on his to-do list. Put yourself in Mark's shoes: you've just survived a catastrophic natural disaster, and people are being wiped out left and right by some brain-eating virus. If you're anything like us, you'd probably think of yourself first and then think of the teeming masses of agonized people around you.
But Mark isn't like that. He's all about helping out other folks.
When Alec reminds him to watch out for himself and stay away from any infected people, Mark doesn't take too kindly to the advice:
"Leave them behind to be eaten by animals," Mark said with a coldness that he hoped would hurt Alec. (10.12)
Yep, Mark actually tries to make Alec feel bad about putting survival in front of helping people out. But the problem with this is that Mark knows he can't possibly save these people—and even if he could, he'd probably die in the process. His emotions (especially his sentimental ones) get the most of him—a lot—making him particularly vulnerable to error.
And Mark becomes super-vulnerable when his brain starts to deteriorate and his emotions truly take over. You know: when he realizes he has the Flare.
For about half of the book, we know that Mark has the Flare, and he gains a whole new persona from having the virus. Instead of being a Think of the children!-type Mark, he turns into a pain-seeking lunatic:
Something had snapped inside of Mark. He didn't understand what it was, but something felt different, and there was no way he was going to let these people on board. (41.14)
Yup. Mark's twisted, Flare-warped psyche does a complete 180. He goes from being a selfless hero (in a bad way) to a homicidal lunatic (in, um, kind of a good way—at least he's able to look out for #1). Not only does Mark beat up the two people who try to board the Berg in this instance, but he tortures the man. And he has a pretty fun time doing it, too.
But apart from a few instances of Flare-fueled bloodlust, Mark is just a normal teenager with thoughts and (so many) feelings who's thrust into a world of chaos and destruction… causing him to go a tad bit nutso. And the fact that he's all about saving the people around him shows that he has a tender, loving heart.
Mark truly is one of a kind. And if there were more people like him in Dashner's insane, brutal universe, maybe more lives would've been spared.