The Wave

This study guide will help you analyze the novel The Wave by Morton Rhue (1981). You can also find a summary of the text, full characterizations, as well as inspiration for interpreting the novel and putting it into perspective.

Excerpt from the study guide:

Ben Ross, the main character and creator of the experiment will discover in its course how seductive it is to have power. The sudden feeling of power he experiences when The Wave is introduced excites him until the end and prevents him from stopping the experiment earlier. To his wife, he justifies this by saying that complaining teachers and parents don`t really know what The Wave is about “[…] ‘And that’s because they just don’t understand what I’m trying to do’ ”(Chapter 15, 16%). 

Interactions among students, were was characterized by individual self-determination, are clearly endangered:

 David added, ‘It’s taken over, Mr Ross. You can’t say anything against it. People are afraid to.’ ‘The kids at school are scared,’ Laurie told him. ‘They’re really scared. Not only to say anything against The Wave, but of what might happen to them if they don’t go along with it.’(Chapter 15, 82%).

In the end, both Ben Ross and his “followers” must admit to themselves that they have clearly gone too far. They have allowed themselves to be seduced by power and have thoughtlessly subordinated individuality and freedom of expression to it: “ ‘Threatening those who wouldn’t join you, preventing non-Wave members from sitting with you at football games.’ ” (Chapter 17, 50%),“ ‘I certainly became more of a leader than I intended to be.’ ”(Chapter 17, 70%). At last, however, critical self-determination prevails, and Ben Ross puts an end to the unfortunate spook. Individual judgment triumphs over group pressure, and the original order can be considered restored.

All of the students are shocked that they actually acted according to the mottoes striving for power and developed into little fascists: “The effect on the students was staggering.” (Chapter 17, 70%). The other Wave members also allowed themselves to be drawn deeper and deeper by the powerful current as the experiment progressed. They liked having power over non-members. 

Because of the permanent expansion, the group seemed especially powerful to them. There was a feeling that together they could do anything if they only acted according to the slogans of The Wave: “They were The Wave now, and Ben realized that they could act on their own without him if they wanted.” (Chapter 8, 80%).

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The Wave

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