The Wave

The Wave Summary and Analysis of Chapters 10-12


Mr. Ross is called to the principal’s office. He is nervous, but to his surprise, Principal Owens is very happy about The Wave—at least at first. When Mr. Ross explains that The Wave is meant to teach students what life was like in Nazi Germany, Principal Owens worries that it is too “open ended” (78) and that it might go too far. However, Mr. Ross thinks that he can put a stop to The Wave whenever he wants because he is the leader. He reassures Principal Owens that The Wave won’t become a problem.

Laurie goes to the publications office to work on the newspaper. When she gets there, she finds that someone has slid a mysterious note under the door. It is unsigned. The author of the note explains that he wants his story to be published in The Grapevine, but he doesn’t want his name attached to it.

The letter-writer is a junior. He writes that a senior from Mr. Ross’s class invited him to join The Wave. When the letter-writer didn’t want to join, the senior threatened that the letter-writer would lose all his friends if he didn’t join. He also said that if the letter-writer didn’t join soon, it might be too late. Laurie is disturbed by the note.

Mr. Ross sees Brad and Eric handing out pamphlets in the hall. The pamphlets promise to help students “learn all about The Wave” (82). The campus is covered with posters and banners advertising for the upcoming Wave rally. Suddenly, Mr. Ross notices that Robert is following him. Robert asks Mr. Ross if he can be his bodyguard. “You’re the leader, Mr. Ross,” Robert says. “I can’t let anything happen to you” (83).

Mr. Ross feels uncomfortable with the request. However, he is impressed by the change that has come over Robert, who used to be shy and unhappy. To avoid hurting Robert’s feelings, Mr. Ross agrees that the student can be his bodyguard. He reflects on the fact that the students seem to think that Mr. Ross has ordered them to do all these things––to hand out pamphlets, to put up posters, to turn the pep rally into a Wave rally. However, he never gave these orders; the students seem to have made them up themselves.

Meanwhile, Laurie hears a fight in the Quad. The brawl is between Brian and his rival Deutsch. Principal Owens breaks up the fight and drags Brian to his office. As he leaves, Brian yells The Wave slogans. Laurie wonders if the fight is about The Wave, but David explains to her that the boys have been rivals for a long time. David adds that Deutsch is one of the few students who has not joined The Wave. “If he was in The Wave,” David says, “he wouldn’t be trying to steal Brian’s position. That guy’s a real detriment to the team.” (86)

Laurie suddenly decides that she does not want to attend The Wave rally. David tries to convince her to go, but she insists that people are taking The Wave too seriously. He accuses her of hating The Wave because under The Wave, everyone is equal—and she is no longer the most popular girl in school. They continue to fight until David breaks up with her.

Laurie skips the Wave rally and hangs out in the publications office. Her friends Carl and Eric join her. They attended the Wave rally but thought the crowd’s enthusiasm was scary. Together, the three students decide to publish an issue of The Grapevine that is critical of The Wave. They schedule an emergency meeting at Laurie’s house.

That night, Laurie cries in her room over her break-up with David. Her father comes in and asks her about The Wave. He heard from his golfing buddies that a boy was beat up for saying something critical about The Wave. Mr. Saunders speculates that the incident might also have been because the victim was Jewish. Laurie is shocked.


In this section, The Wave shifts from a ‘fad’ to a sinister movement. This change is foreshadowed by the events in Chapters 10 and 11. In Chapter 10, Principal Owens warns Mr. Ross that The Wave might get out of hand. This scene is important because it is the first one (except, arguably, the conversations between Mr. Ross and his wife) in which Mr. Ross is not presented as an authority figure.

This shows that, like the students, Mr. Ross is not in complete control of what happens. It also suggests that just like his pupils, Mr. Ross will learn from and be changed by The Wave. Throughout the novel, Strasser downplays the differences between teens and adults. He suggests that adults are driven by the same fears and motivations as his teen characters are.

The scene in which Robert sneaks up on Mr. Ross also foreshadows the sinister turn that events will take. Even after he recovers from his initial surprise, Mr. Ross is uncomfortable with Robert’s request to act as his bodyguard. However, he also worries about what will happen if he rejects Robert’s request. Although this is far from outright intimidation––Mr. Ross is motivated by pity more than fear––it also shows that the balance of power has shifted from teacher to student.

The anonymous note is a frightening early sign that Gordon High is beginning to take The Wave seriously. The fact that the note is unsigned is an important plot device, but it also has thematic significance. The fact that the note could not have been written by a main character (all the novel’s primary characters are seniors, and the letter-writer refers to himself as a junior) shows that The Wave’s impact extends far beyond the select group of characters that Strasser describes.

It is also important that Laurie’s concerns about the letter and the writer’s safety come despite the fact that she doesn’t know who he is. Even though everyone she knows personally enjoys The Wave, she is able to think abstractly about how the ‘game’ might affect those who choose not to play. Her ability to extend empathy, even to people she doesn’t know, makes Laurie the hero of the story.