The final book of the Maze Runner trilogy finds Thomas (the series hero) in total isolation. He’s in a padded room devoid of color with a stainless-steel toilet in the corner. He’s been there for three weeks, actually, though he has no watch to track the time, nor does he have any books, movies, or games. He’s even served the exact same meal three times a day – slab of ham, mashed potatoes, raw carrots, slice of bread, water, but we’re told that even that doesn’t bother him.
Hard to believe anyone could complacently accept such a repetitive meal regimen, let alone a teenage boy. Of course, Thomas isn’t exactly average; he’s survived both the Maze and the Scorch, and we also know from the first two books that he’s not only critical to the trials that will supposedly save the human race, but that he even had a hand in designing them. Despite the ambiguity of his current role/status within the organization, the diet they’ve prescribed him speaks volumes – protein, vegetable, and starch to cover the nutritional bases, but no variety or seasoning to acknowledge him as anything more than, well, a test subject.
To be fair, the saltiness of the ham makes it probably the best meat choice; everybody likes mashed potatoes; and raw carrots are the least offensive vegetable. But what I find most interesting is how food is the first thing those in power use to manipulate and control people. In our world, international humanitarian law dictates “adequate and nutritious provisions,” which may be many different things depending on what news stories you read and/or believe, but that there even has to be such a food clause in the law is in itself significant. Then, in this story, beyond just the monotonous selection, Thomas (even clock-less) knows the meals don’t seem to come regularly. As if he was meant to feel disoriented.
For me, the message is so clear that it’s almost a spoiler; when Dashner tells us on the first page that such a tried-and-true breaking technique doesn’t work on Thomas, he’s also telling us that Thomas has the power to upend the whole system. Good thing we know it, but WICKED doesn’t ;)