Characters

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Charismatic and innovative, Ben Ross has an outstanding reputation as a teacher. Although his colleagues sometimes jadedly refer to him as "overzealous," his students, drawn by his intensity and "the way he (gets) so interested and involved in a topic that they (can't) help but be interested also," love him. Often frustrated by his students' casual approach towards learning, Mr. Ross takes his job very seriously, often doing extra research on topics and staying up late into the night in his determination to motivate his classes and help them get the most out of the material he presents. It is this propensity on Ben Ross's part that gives rise to the experiment resulting in The Wave.

Mr. Ross has a bent toward dramatic leadership, as he shows when he introduces the experiment to his class. His passion and energy quickly lure the students into active participation in the project, and his intelligent analysis easily brings them to accept its basic stated underlying principles. A seeker of knowledge himself, Mr. Ross is intrigued when the experiment takes on a life of its own. Curious as to where it may lead, he exercises what in hindsight might be called poor judgment in allowing the project to follow its natural course. During a certain period in the development of The Wave, Mr. Ross himself gets caught up in his own creation, at one point even fantasizing about gaining personal recognition for new findings on classroom discipline resulting from his experiment. His deviation is thankfully brief and temporary, however, and overall he remains acutely aware of his responsibilities; when The Wave is ended, he immediately takes steps to see to the well-being of those who have been most negatively affected by what has happened.

The student who has the most active role in the narrative is Laurie Saunders, a member of the school newspaper staff who is known for her popularity and academic ability. Laurie is deeply thoughtful and has an inquiring nature; it is originally she who is most troubled by the question of the German population's inaction during the Holocaust, and also she who first discerns the destructive character of The Wave. When her best friends turn against her and her boyfriend breaks off their relationship because of her stubborn opposition to what she sees as a dangerous force, Laurie sticks to her principles and daringly instigates the publication of a newspaper edition devoted to exposing the evils of The Wave.

David Collins, Laurie's boyfriend, demonstrates an alternate response to The Wave. Strongly pragmatic, he introduces the movement to the school's struggling football team, recognizing the philosophy's strength in stimulating team spirit and encouraging the shedding of personal ambition in the interest of achieving a common goal. Originally matter-of-fact about his teacher's introduction of the experiment, David eventually gets caught up in the movement to the point that he physically hurts his girlfriend when she will not join in like everyone else. Jolted back to reality by revulsion at his own behavior, David gives testimony to the seductive nature of The Wave, and its power to make people act in ways they never would under ordianry circumstances.

Robert Billings is the class misfit. Alternately tormented and shunned by his peers, he is slovenly and apathetic, routinely eating alone in the cafeteria and sleeping through his classes. The younger brother of a model student who has left a legacy on campus as a star athlete and an excellent scholar, Robert has apparently decided that since he will never be able to live up to the standard set by his sibling, it is better not to even try. Interestingly, Robert is immediately captivated when The Wave is introduced. He...

(This entire section contains 825 words.)

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thrives in the atmosphere of rigid discipline under which everyone is forced to treat each other as equals, testifying with an almost religious fervor that the experience is like "being born again." Robert is elated when he is randomly chosen to be a monitor in The Wave, and takes his assignment to police the actions of the others most seriously. He appoints himself to be Mr. Ross's personal bodyguard, and when Laurie begins her campaign to expose the negative aspects of the movement, Robert is the first to ominously suggest that measures must be taken to stop her.

When the true object of the experiment is revealed and The Wave comes to an end, it is Robert who stands to lose the most. The Wave has allowed him to achieve the recognition, respect, and power that has always been denied him, and he is devastated when the movement is cut short. Fortunately, Mr. Ross recognizes the situation in which Robert is left, and there is hope that with his teacher's guidance and personal concern, Robert might actually emerge from the experience with a better understanding of himself and the world around him.

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