Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 234
Because there are no human characters in this story, the elements of nature become the main characters. The first of these is ‘‘The Cliff’’ which is hard and silent. It sits before the sea in a calm arrogance, having stoically weathered ‘‘thousands of years of battle.’’ But there is a weakness in the cliff: crashing waves have carved out a cavern at its base.
These waves are important, because they contrast with the wave of the title. They come ‘‘towering into the cove . . . confusedly, meeting midway in the cove, chasing one another, climbing over one another’s backs.’’ Because they are not unified, they do little damage to the cliff, and they retreat— ‘‘disheveled masses of green and white, hurrying backward.’’ They do not have the force of the sea behind them, because it is not yet high tide.
Unlike the cliff, the wave is active and in constant motion. It is wild and chaotic and angry. It is almost possible to feel, in its violence, the frustration of all the years of pounding away at the unyielding rock. While the cliff takes no notice of the sea beneath it, the wave, with its ‘‘head curved outwards, arched like the neck of an angry swan’’ seems intent on attacking the great limestone rock. It is important to note that this wave is unified, ‘‘stretching from reef to reef.’’