The Wave Questions and Answers
by Todd Strasser

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What are the themes of The Wave?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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More than anything else, The Wave acts as a stark warning of the dangers of groupthink. This is where people stop thinking for themselves and mindlessly subscribe to what everyone else is thinking. Groupthink is depressingly common in a number of social environments, especially in high school, where standing out from the crowd is generally frowned upon. This makes the high school setting a singularly appropriate one for the story.

The members of The Wave use groupthink as a means of building and strengthening solidarity in the face of the other students. In their hands, groupthink becomes a dangerous weapon used to exclude those students deemed inferior. It is also used to construct an alternative reality, a parallel universe in which they, and they alone, get to determine who is and who isn't important.

As the story progresses, The Wave becomes gradually more alienated from reality, trapped in a fantasy world of its own making. Groupthink may keep The Wave together, but it also widens the gap between the members of the group and the real world outside, with its moral standards, norms, and conventions.

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Todd Strasser's novel, The Wave, addresses the dangers of facism and group 'mob' mentality.  Ben Ross seeks to show his students how the German people accepted the Nazi regime during World War II; his classroom experiment creates 'The Wave,' a student group in which power comes from unity.  Ross structures 'the Wave' to emphasize conformity and obedience; he uses drills in his classroom that many students, like Robert Billings, can excel in when previously they might have felt discouraged or like an outsider. 

Ultimately, Ross's seemingly benign social experiment gets out of hand; 'the Wave' reveals the true destructive power of facism's appeal to humanity's need to belong.  The students swept into the fervor of 'the Wave' abandon both their morals and ability to think independently in exchange for the emotional connection provided by the group mentality of 'the Wave.'

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