Themes

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 340

Permanence
What could be more permanent than a towering cliff? Expressions such as ‘‘solid as the rock of Gibraltar’’ seek to compare human endeavors to the enduring solidity of just such a cliff. Yet, in ‘‘The Wave,’’ we see that this monstrous edifice, two hundred feet high, may last a long while, but—in the end—it falls in upon itself. Nothing, this story seems to suggest, is truly permanent.

Time
Time changes everything. The sea could not have caused the cliff to fall in upon itself in a day or a month or a year—it took thousands of years. Time is the catalyst for change, and it is inevitable. It moves inexorably forward, allowing the events that occur within time to proceed and then become the past. At the end of the story, there is no more cliff, just a slope down to the water’s edge and, although the sea’s constant pounding was the direct cause of its demise, the sea needed time in order to do its work.

Change and Transformation
In nature, nothing is lost, but much is changed or transformed from one thing to another. As human observers, we tend to value one thing in nature over another. A cliff impresses us with its grandeur, while a mere slope rarely makes us pause to consider it at all. When the wave causes the cliff to fall apart, we may observe the falling apart itself in awe: the crashing boulders, the thunderous roar, the smoke pluming up and drifting away. It is a sight similar to the demolition of an old building. But, just as with the old building, when the excitement is over and there is only rubble, we are dismayed at the disarray, the mess that is left. But nature makes no such distinctions—the rocks are still a part of the landscape, the path of the water merely shifts, adapting to its new course. A simple structural change has taken place. There is no better or worse. Nature is uncaring, indifferent.

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