The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave Literary Elements


Science Fiction, Dystopian Literature, Young Adult

Setting and Context

Modern-day Ohio in the midst of an extraterrestrial apocalypse

Narrator and Point of View

There are three narrators throughout the story. The only two in the first-person point of view are Cassiopeia "Cassie" Sullivan and Benjamin "Zombie" Parish. In sections where Sammy "Nugget" Sullivan and Evan Walker are the main focus, it becomes third-person omniscient.

Tone and Mood

Informal, gloomy, suspenseful, mysterious

Protagonist and Antagonist

Cassie is the protagonist whose main goal is to find and protect her younger brother Sammy. Commander Vosch is the antagonist who runs Camp Haven as the Supreme Commander in charge of delivering the fifth wave.

Major Conflict

The major conflicts arise when Cassie struggles to find Sammy, and along the way meets Evan Walker, whom she discovers to be one of the Others shortly after they develop a romantic connection.


The climax occurs once the intruders (Cassie and Evan) are discovered within Camp Haven.


The discovery of Evan being one of the "others" is foreshadowed in Part 3, Silencer. It is the only part of the story devoted to a silencer who watches over Cassie curiously, and eventually shoots her in the leg, though the reader is left not knowing who the silencer is.


Major Bob tells Sammy that he should not be scared because Camp Haven is the safest place in the world, which the reader sees as an understatement when finding out the Camp is actually a training ground for children to eventually be deployed as the fifth wave.


There are many allusions to Star Wars, in which Sammy refers to Vosch as Darth Vader and the mothership hovering above Earth as the Death Star, adding to the overall relatability throughout the story.


Evan Walker's sympathetic change towards the side of the human race, increasing as he falls further in love with Cassie, is at odds with the nature of the Others, symbolizing the possibility of a greater change within the extraterrestrial invaders.

Sammy's bear and Cassie's will to take care of it portrays the hope to find and deliver it back to her brother as well as her adamant clinging to the possibility of things going back to the way they're supposed to be, though her words may say otherwise.


The children within Camp Haven believe the camp is part of the fight against the Others, but find out later that those running the camp are actually the Others, blinding them through various forms of propaganda, their strict training regimen, and high-tech glasses, which they were told glow green at figures infected by aliens, but rather glow green at other human beings. In their fight against the fifth wave, they discover that they are, in fact, the fifth wave.


There is a distinct parallel between Cassie and Ben, emphasized by the author writing their parts in the first-person point of view. Through this, the reader can clearly see the parallel between the inner workings of the camp and the outside struggles of other survivors.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

"The Others" is often used to refer to the extraterrestrial invaders who embody humans. "The Eye" is a name given to the overwatch ships. The "Silencers" refers to the aliens who have inhabit and attack humans. The five attacks toward the human race are known as "waves," with the first being the worldwide EMP strike, the second being enormous tsunamis which tore apart the majority of coastal cities, the third being a highly contagious plague, the fourth being the silencers, and the fifth being the children trained as soldiers.


In chapter 1, "a cockroach working up a plan to defeat the shoe on its way down to crush it."

In chapter 25, "The little tent is choking with smoke."

In chapter 38, "his pounding heart pushed fiercely against his open palm..."

In chapter 56, "The world is screaming" and "the icy wind racing through the open hatch of the Black Hawk."