The Wave - by Morton Rhue

The Wave

by Morton Rhue

JThe Author

When the film had been a great success the author Morton Rhue was asked to write a book according to the film.

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 novels.


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 :

·     Strength through discipline

·     Strength through community

·     Strength through action

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 Hitler.


Ben Ross and Christy Ross:

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 pupils.

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 teach.

                        His wife Christy is shown as a complementary character: She is very efficient in practical matters, whereas he is more bent on theory.

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 Saunders:

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 Ben

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 Collins:

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 trend.

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 is right.

Robert Billings:

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 lonely again.


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


JLanguage Style:

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).

JCritical Evaluation:

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.

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