When Mr. Ross arrives for class, he is shocked to find the students have all arrived on time and are sitting straight in neat rows. He isn’t sure whether to continue with the experiment, but he is overwhelmed with curiosity. He wants to know how far he can push the students. He explains that discipline isn’t the only thing students need to succeed. They also need to be part of a community.
The class now has two mottos: “Strength through Discipline” and “Strength through Community” (38). Mr. Ross calls the ‘movement’ The Wave, and teaches the students a hand gesture that they should use to salute each other. He then drills the students in the mottos and the salute until the end of class.
At football practice, David wants to tell the football team about The Wave. He believes that discipline and teamwork will help them in their upcoming game against Clarkstown High. Eric worries that their teammates will laugh at the idea, but Brian is supportive. As the boys banter about football, a junior named Deutsch joins the conversation. He is Brian’s rival, and the two quickly begin to argue.
David breaks up the fight. He explains to his teammates that they can only win if they work together as a team. “A bunch of self-serving individuals,” he says, “don’t make a team” (47). He teaches his teammates The Wave’s mottos and salute.
At home, Laurie tells her parents about The Wave. Mrs. Saunders finds the experiment off-putting. She thinks it sounds too militaristic, and it seems like an odd way to teach history. “We’ve raised you to be an individual” (50), she says. However, Laurie is enthusiastic about The Wave. She thinks the class can benefit from some team spirit, and she points out that no one has picked on Robert since the experiment started.
Mr. Ross talks to his wife, Christy, about the effect The Wave has had on his students. Suddenly, they take history seriously and do all their homework. Christy has some concerns about The Wave. She thinks the students like The Wave because it means they don’t have to think for themselves. She also dislikes the way Mr. Ross suddenly talks about his class like his students are better than the rest of the school.
Christy also notices that Mr. Ross is so excited talking about The Wave that he has failed to do chores around the house. Tonight was his night to cook dinner, but he ordered Chinese food and leaves the dishes for her to clean up. She warns him that “maybe you’re becoming a guinea pig in your own experiment” (54).
In these chapters, Strasser describes the three main characters’ reactions to The Wave. Although they will eventually reject The Wave, Laurie and David are very enthusiastic about it at first. David sees The Wave as an opportunity to help himself and his teammates. He thinks that its message of teamwork and discipline will help them to defeat their football rival, Clarksville. Compared to Laurie, his motives are somewhat self-centered—he sees The Wave as a means to achieving athletic glory for himself and his friends.
In contrast, Laurie believes The Wave can help others. Her strongest example of The Wave’s success is the fact that Robert is no longer bullied. Although she was uncomfortable on the first day of the experiment, she believes that organized, disciplined “Strength through Community” might make teenagers better, more compassionate people than they would be on their own.
Strasser emphasizes that adults are drawn into The Wave as easily as teenagers are. Laurie’s father thinks that today’s youth need all the help they can get, and Mr. Ross is completely fascinated by the changes The Wave has caused in his students’ behavior. Even though Mr. Ross consciously modeled The Wave on Nazi political tactics, he still recognizes that his students could benefit from some discipline.
However, not all of the adults approve of The Wave. Laurie’s mother—whom Strasser emphasizes is highly intelligent and known for her political skills––recognizes that The Wave is militaristic and might discourage students from being individuals. Christy Ross voices similar concerns, arguing that The Wave means students no longer have to think for themselves.
Strasser makes the point that the adult world in general is not so different from the world of high school. That is why in World War II, a whole nation of adults was taken in by the same manipulation that Mr. Ross uses on a small group of high-schoolers. For example, Mr. Saunders complains that his semiconductor plant is behind on production because of “constant back-biting and bickering and everyone trying to cover his own you-know-what” (50). These problems are similar to the ones Mr. Ross identifies in the classroom and the ones David and Brian identify on the football team. The novel suggests that human nature has some real flaws, and peer pressure can sometimes be a good thing as long as it is not taken too far.