The Wave

The Wave Summary and Analysis of Chapters 8-9


David and Laurie walk to school together every day. On the way to school, they talk about The Wave. David thinks it is just what the football team needs to start winning games. Laurie tells him about her mother’s negative response to The Wave. “She can’t possibly understand what The Wave is about unless she’s been in class to see it work,” David says. “Parents always think they know everything!” (56)

Laurie disagrees, but she changes the subject and asks how David is doing in calculus. He is having trouble but is too embarrassed to ask for help. In class that day, Mr. Ross passes out membership cards. Some of the cards have red X’s on them; the students with the X’s are monitors. Their job is to report people who break the rules of The Wave to Mr. Ross. Brian and Robert are monitors, but Laurie is not. She asks what the point of the cards is. Mr. Ross gives a vague answer.

Next he introduces The Wave’s newest slogan: “Strength Through Action” (59). He explains that the students must use their new sense of discipline and community to work together and achieve goals. Laurie begins to think that The Wave is scary. Mr. Ross stresses that everyone in The Wave is equal, and the students must try to recruit new members.

As Mr. Ross starts his history lecture, one student, George Snyder, stands up spontaneously. He announces how proud and happy is to be part of The Wave. Robert, Amy, and David stand up and say they agree. At lunch that day, all the members of The Wave sit together at one table instead of breaking up into their usual cliques.

The students recruit so many people for The Wave that new students start to sit in on Mr. Ross’s class. Mr. Ross notices that while his students have become better at memorizing facts, they are also getting worse at analyzing and thinking critically. However, they seem to like The Wave, and he is proud of the way they have embraced the increased discipline. Mr. Ross fantasizes about Time magazine writing a story about him and The Wave.

Meanwhile, Laurie is back at the school newspaper office. No one on the staff has written their stories for next week’s issue. She is frustrated by their laziness, but she decides not to introduce them to The Wave the way David did with the football team. She has a “creepy feeling ... that maybe they should be careful with The Wave” (70). However, the newspaper staff wants to write a story about The Wave because so many students are discussing it. Laurie encourages them to do their research.

That night, Laurie’s mother questions her about The Wave. She ran into Robert’s mother at the grocery store. Robert’s mother says he is a completely new person, but Mrs. Saunders remains skeptical of The Wave. She thinks it sounds like a cult, especially since she heard about a big Wave rally scheduled for Friday. Laurie tells her not to worry because The Wave is just a silly fad.


The past two sections have shown how The Wave affects families. Even on its second day, The Wave was already beginning to cause problems between Mr. Ross and his wife. He becomes so absorbed in planning for the experiment that neglects his household chores. It also causes Laurie to argue with her parents; she gets annoyed when her mother first suggests that The Wave might not be as good as it seems.

In fact, The Wave seems to encourage students to abandon their old families in favor of their new family (that is, the other students in The Wave). Although Laurie and Mr. Ross argued with their families as a result of The Wave, the students at school are kinder to each other. Although they used to sit in small groups at lunch, they now sit together at one large table—even including Robert, who no one used to like.

Despite his good intentions, The Wave starts to change Mr. Ross’s personality in these chapters. He begins to wear suits to school, and becomes more of a disciplinarian than he was in the earlier chapters. It also begins to affect his ego. He seems to forget the lessons he wanted to teach about Nazi Germany, and instead daydreams about being recognized by a news magazine for the way he has motivated his students.

Ironically, Mr. Ross seems to become more self-centered after inventing The Wave, even though his students talk about how The Wave has encouraged people to be less self-absorbed. This suggests that while The Wave might seem to make people more charitable, it actually doesn’t change human nature. It just allows people to cover up their selfishness. Mrs. Saunders notices something similar. She suggests that The Wave doesn’t really solve Robert’s problems. According to her, all of Robert’s problems would come back if he quit The Wave, so it’s not a real solution.

These chapters also raise questions about different styles of learning. The Wave seems to help the students with memorization, but it also hurts their ability to think critically and come up with unique opinions. Mr. Ross notices that “rather than long, thoughtful answers, they wrote short ones” (66). Strasser suggests that both types of learning are important, and sometimes one type of learning comes at the cost of the other. Because of this, students and teachers must make their own decisions about what type of learning is the most important.