by Morton Rhue
When the film had been a
great success the author Morton Rhue was asked to write a book according to the
This novel was published in
1981 as "The Wave" by Morton Rhue.
The author, Morton Rhue,
published it under the pseudonym Todd Strasser had become famous for some youth
In a history-lesson the
teacher Ben Ross showed a film about Hitler and his German youth movement. The
pupils who attended Mr. Ross' class could not believe that it was possible to
manipulate such a number of people. Many of the teenagers who took part in this
lesson were discussing the topic for quite a long time. So Ben began to think
about the behavior of these people who lived 50 years ago. Was it so
unintelligible? To get an answer to this question he started an experiment. He
wanted to prove that every human being could be influenced and manipulated by a
strong and authoritarian leader.
So Ben illustrated the
situation to the pupils by a little experiment. He wrote on the blackboard : " STRENGTH
THROUGH DISCIPLINE !" and he started to give the teenagers certain
commands. The children were interested in the solidarity and so Ben went on with
his test. The next slogan he put up was :"STRENGTH THROUGH COMMUNITY !".
With these two rules the
pupils got the feeling that they were all acting like one single person. Even
outsiders like Robert were integrated in the group and so a real organization
was built up. Mr. Ross decided to call
it THE WAVE. He even developed a special salutation and certain member-cards.
So the little schoolclass of the beginning was growing into a real movement.
Some members tried to recruit new ones and others started to control the others
if they obeyed the three rules :
But by the time Ben's
girlfriend and the headmaster of the Gordon High School, the school where Ben
worked, started to worry because they were afraid that the experiment might get
out of control. But Ben was able to reassure them and so he went on with it.
One day Laurie Saunders, the
editor of the school-newspaper found an anonymous letter in the editorial
office. The writer said that pupils of the school were forced to join THE WAVE.
She did not know what to do and so she went home. There her father told her
that a Jewish boy had been beaten up by some members of the Wave. She decided
to bring out a special edition of the newspaper in which she reported about THE
WAVE. When Ben read the newspaper he was shocked. He had never realized, that
the group had become that big. David, another member, went to Laurie because he
wanted to tell her to stop these actions. But she could convince him that THE
WAVE was a bad organization. They went to Mr. Ross and told him to stop the
movement the same evening.
Upon that Ben called in a
big assembly the next afternoon. There he showed all the teenagers their real
leader and the reason for his experiment : HITLER. Now the pupils realized,
that they had been manipulated successfully like the German young people under
Ben Ross and Christy
He is characterized as a young
teacher gifted with enthusiasm and energy to teach in a way that is both
creative and efficient. He is respected and enjoys the trust and respect of his
Ben is ambitious, more
stubborn, more intense also in taking risks.
This is the main reason why
his change in teaching method and his mottos are not really questioned by
anyone except by Laurie.
The Wave, his own invention,
becomes "contagious" for himself, too.
Ben Ross is well integrated
in his social environment; he has a clear basis from which to judge and to
His wife Christy is shown as a complementary
character: She is very efficient in practical matters, whereas he is more bent
Her attitude to people is
well-balanced. She has a good sense of humor, and she also shows critical
sarcasm. - She shows her loyalty by warning Ben of the problems he is creating.
Laurie is a straight-A
pupil, reliable, ambitious, with a strong sense of justice, the will to get
things well done, a good intuition and a need for friendship. Laurie, an
editor-in-chief, works for the "Grapevine", the students' school magazine. She
is an intellectually trained and self-confident person and as a student
journalist she is in a position to inform her
school-mates through the
"Grapevine" about the Wave
Laurie is the antagonist to
The Wave experience has
changed Laurie. She felt disappointment, discrimination, isolation and fear.-
She had to fight alone against something, and lost her naive trust in people.
David's social relationship
at school mainly consists of his relatively recent friendship to Laurie and his
comradeship with the members of the football team. He is a good-looking,
helpful and efficient boy who values the success of his football team over his individual
progress in his studies.
His loyalty to Laurie is put
to a test when he realizes that she is becoming a fierce critic of the new
He reacts angrily to all
criticism of the mottos and prefers wishful thinking to reason and arguments.
He is upset at Laurie for destroying his optimistic view of the movement. Upset
at Laurie for destroying his optimistic view of the movement.
David thinks that all the
others must be right and Laurie must be wrong. As he cannot stop her, he starts
to aggress her verbally and physically. Then there is the moment of awareness:
David realizes that he is hurting her, that he is acting completely
unreasonably. He understands in a split second that he is wrong and that Laurie
Robert is an unsuccessful
student who has become used to failure, who even provokes failure by
provocative laziness and lack of interest. He has become used to being made fun
of, to being ignored or even avoided by fellow students. He is the younger
brother of an excellent student with whom he has never been able to compete.
His emotional basis is
strong resentment against his environment.
The role that Ben Ross gives
him and the role that he then constructs for himself raises his self-confidence
and changes his looks and attitude. His former resentment is transformed into
enthusiasm for the Wave. He starts acting like a harsh commander who does not
accept any position to the movement.
Under the influence of the
Wave he really enjoys it. When it is over, Robert is very disappointed, and
People can easily be
manipulated. It often takes a long time to realize this manipulation to be
self-confident and critical towards other opinions and
This novel is written in 3rd
person, and divided into 17 chapters.
The drama that Ben Ross
creates and directs until it becomes nearly uncontrollable. This drama shows
the stages of exposition (ch. 1-3), rising action (ch. 4-10), climax (ch. 11),
falling action (ch. 12-16), and denouement (ch. 17).
In my opinion this book
shows fascinatingly now fast, just one person, can manipulate a big group of
young people and can make them enthusiastic.
This is based an the
confidence the people have. It also shows how quickly you can become an outsider
because of disagreement, and now violence is used to force people to join.
I can hardy imagine that a
teacher would try to make such an experiment.