The Wave Characters
by Todd Strasser

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The Wave Characters

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.

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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...

(The entire section is 807 words.)