Study Guide

The Scorch Trials Themes

  • Time

    In The Scorch Trials, the Gladers are given just two weeks to trek 100 miles through deadly lightning storms, deal with crazy Cranks, and outwit a rival group. That's, um, not a very generous amount of time.

    Because they've had their memories wiped clean and have been placed in crazy Trials, the Gladers easily lose sense of time, which causes them to feel physically and mentally exhausted. These kids are constantly racing against the clock—no, really, they're literally running against time throughout the book. These kids deserve a break, but according to WICKED, time is running is out.

    Questions About Time

    1. Does the time limit for The Scorch Trials really matter?
    2. Is it Thomas's sense of time that makes him fall asleep so often?
    3. If the Gladers were given more time, do you think they would have been more careful?

    Chew on This

    The two-week time limit that WICKED gives the Gladers is simply to test their ability to follow directions.

    If there hadn't been a time limit, the Gladers would have all stalled, and the Flare would have taken over.

  • Fear

    Just as in The Maze Runner, the Gladers in The Scorch Trials spend most of their time scared out of their minds. Not only do the kids fear the consequences of dealing with WICKED and being attacked by crazy creatures and Cranks, but they're also forced to face the fear of death. They witness it all the time, so it's pretty hard for any of them to forget about it. In some cases, fear can be helpful, but it sure isn't fun to be running around scared all of the time.

    Questions About Fear

    1. What do you think the Gladers fear more: the Maze or the Scorch?
    2. Are the Cranks more frightening than Grievers?
    3. Is fear an asset or a deficiency for the Gladers?
    4. What is Thomas's biggest fear in the Trials?

    Chew on This

    Fear fuels the Gladers, making them stronger as they make their way through each Variable.

    Fear of the Flare's effect is worse than the actual effect it starts to have on the kids.

  • Friendship

    Camaraderie, unity, bromance—we see it all in The Scorch Trials. We really can't function without our friends; for the Gladers, though, friendship is a matter of life and death.

    As the situations in the novel get direr and direr, the power of friendship starts to show itself in people like Thomas and Minho. Thomas can't bear to be separated from the rest of the Gladers; his connection to them has simply become so strong that it hurts not to have a friend by his side. Thomas enters the Maze lonely and friendless, but he emerges from The Scorch Trials with a bond to the Gladers that even WICKED can't break.

    Well, at least we think WICKED can't break it.

    Questions About Friendship

    1. Are the Gladers all true friends, or do they still have a bit of distrust for one another?
    2. Does Thomas "friend-zone" Brenda?
    3. Who is Thomas's best friend in the book: Teresa, Minho, or someone else?
    4. Does the absence of the Gladers have more of a negative impact on Thomas than his fear of not making it to the safe haven does?

    Chew on This

    Newt and Minho are Thomas's true friends, and are the only ones he can trust.

    The bonds the Gladers create are one of WICKED's Variables.

  • Memory

    Getting through The Scorch Trials would be hard enough under any circumstances, but what makes the whole thing even worse is that all of the kids have massive memory lapses. No, seriously—their memories were basically wiped. Thomas, for example, can't remember who he was and what he did before he was placed in the Maze, so he can't even make sense of the situation. All he knows is that his name is Thomas and that he's somewhat special.

    Memory loss is damaging in so many ways, but possibly one of the worst ways it damages our heroes is that they were all very bright children before their memories were wiped clean. That means that every kid—yep, even Frypan and Winston—was somehow super important before the Maze trials. Without their memories, who are they now?

    Questions About Memory

    1. The Gladers can't remember their pasts. If they could, would that benefit the experiment?
    2. Why is the loss of memory so debilitating for Thomas?
    3. Teresa and Aris were seen in one of Thomas's memory-dreams. What does this mean?

    Chew on This

    The whole point of WICKED's experiment is to make the kids "new," which is why they need to wipe the kids' memories clean.

    If Thomas had his memory back, WICKED's plans would be ruined.

  • Suffering

    The kids in The Scorch Trials have seen and been through more than most of us can ever imagine. Their lives, at this point, are pretty much defined by suffering.

    The most striking aspect of the kids' suffering is the mental damage that's being done to them—the negative psychological effects that are bound to arise in the traumatic situations they're regularly placed in. Plus, WICKED is so manipulative that on top of all the violence they have to endure, the kids all suffer trust issues and even identity issues. PTSD, anyone? That's a serious issue, and these kids can't possibly not have it after dealing with such nightmarish situations.

    Questions About Suffering

    1. What's worse for the Gladers, the mental suffering or the physical suffering?
    2. Does Thomas suffer more than the other Gladers?
    3. Is the suffering of the kids all part of WICKED's plan?

    Chew on This

    Thomas suffers more than the other kids because he's put through more psychological stress.

    The suffering inflicted on the kids is all part of the plan to toughen them.

  • Manipulation

    The defining characteristic of WICKED is that they manipulate everyone and everything. These are the people who make the Variables, who are searching for the patterns, and who are supposedly good. Every event, situation, hardship, you name it—it's all been created by WICKED.

    Because of WICKED's extreme abuse of power, the Gladers find themselves in what seems to be a futile situation. They have no power whatsoever, and they if they don't follow orders, they'll die for sure. So what else can they do?

    Questions About Manipulation

    1. Since WICKED oversees all of the experiments, why does Thomas get shot?
    2. Does WICKED manipulate some of the Gladers' minds?
    3. Does WICKED's manipulation cause the Gladers to give in to their power?

    Chew on This

    The phrase "WICKED is good" is a code for "WICKED is God."

    The Gladers pretty much have no power aside from the power to (try to) survive.

  • Madness

    In The Maze Runner, we see Gladers going crazy after they're stung by Grievers. People like Gally and Alby and Ben—they go seriously cray-cray. But in The Scorch Trials, everyone is cray-cray. Why is that? Well, apparently, everyone in the novel, including the Gladers, is infected by the Flare, a disease that eats away at the brain and slowly turns you into a meaty blob of looniness.

    Most of the madness we see in The Scorch Trials is literal, not figurative. People actually go crazy, like the full-blown Cranks. One guy's even preoccupied with stealing Thomas's nose. Madness is slowly taking over the world, which makes the search for the cure even direr.

    Questions About Madness

    1. Does Thomas actually start to go crazy at the end of the book?
    2. Do you believe that the Gladers have the Flare?
    3. Is Brenda partly crazy and suffering from the Flare?

    Chew on This

    The Cranks' madness is played up by WICKED so that the Gladers are frightened more.

    The Flare isn't real.

  • Versions of Reality

    You're probably wondering why Thomas falls asleep every page or so in The Scorch Trials. Well, it's not just because he's tired; it's also important that we see what happens in his dreams.

    Thomas's dreams reveal memories of the past to him, which is something that WICKED can't predict or manipulate (at least, we think they can't). Though dreams aren't real, exactly, they're the most real thing Thomas has. They're proof of who he used to be—and if he can just string them all together, then maybe he can make some sense of this WICKED mumbo jumbo that's going on.

    Dreams are an alternate version of reality in most books—they reveal someone's true emotions or feelings—but for Thomas, they're the closest thing to reality that he has.

    Questions About Versions of Reality

    1. What do Thomas's dreams reveal about his past?
    2. Do you think Thomas's dreams are part of WICKED's plan? Or does WICKED not know about them?
    3. From Thomas's dreams, we can infer that he, Aris, and Teresa (and another girl) helped construct both the Maze and the Scorch Trials—so why does Thomas constantly flip-flop between trusting people and not trusting people?

    Chew on This

    The dreams that Thomas has are all manipulated by WICKED.

    Thomas dreams things that he wantsto be real, but in the end, they're just dreams, not memories.