The Wave

The Wave Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-15


Laurie goes to the football game against Clarksville. She looks forward to meeting Amy there and talking about The Wave and her relationship problems with David. However, when she tries to enter the stands, Brad tells her that she must give the Wave salute before she can be allowed in. She argues with him, and Brad seems to agree that the salute rule is silly. However, he is also afraid to let Laurie into the stands without enforcing the rule. He finally agrees to let her in, but Laurie storms off, scared and upset by the hold The Wave has taken on her classmates.

At Laurie’s house, several members of the newspaper staff gather to put together a special issue devoted to The Wave. Some staffers did not come help because they were worried about the repercussions they might suffer if they published articles critical of The Wave. Carl, who is writing an article about the boy who was beaten up, reveals that the victim is being kept out of school. Apparently, one of his attackers called him “a dirty Jew” (97). Laurie writes a long editorial condemning The Wave.

The day the special issue is scheduled to come out, Laurie shows Amy the editorial in advance. She wants to warn her best friend ahead of time in case the editorial causes trouble. Amy disagrees strongly with the editorial. She explains that because of The Wave, she feels free for the first time to be herself and not constantly compete with Laurie. She adds that Laurie only dislikes The Wave because “it means you’re not a princess anymore” (100).

When the new issue of The Grapevine is published, Gordon High is consumed with discussion. It turns out that The Wave is more controversial than people thought, and many students agree with the newspaper’s criticism of the movement. When Mr. Ross sees the newspaper, he feels guilty about the student who was beaten up.

He is also upset to find out that the Gordon High football team lost badly to Clarksville even with the help of The Wave. He realizes that a football victory would have proved that The Wave was effective, and that this loss reflects badly on the movement that he started. Mr. Ross overhears Coach Schiller talking with another teacher in the faculty room. They are complaining about The Wave.

Meanwhile, David is frustrated that people are laughing at The Wave because of the botched football game. He sees some people reading Laurie’s editorial. The other students are angry at Laurie’s criticisms. Robert is especially upset and thinks Laurie should be stopped. Brian and David agree to talk to her and ask her to stop publishing negative articles about The Wave.

At home, Christy confronts Mr. Ross about The Wave. She tells him that most of his coworkers frown upon the movement. Mr. Ross insists that The Wave is teaching his students an important lesson, and if they stop now then his effort will be wasted. However, Christy remains concerned and informs him that Principal Owens wants to see him tomorrow morning.

Laurie leaves school late after attending a party at The Grapevine office. When she goes to her locker on her way out, she sees that someone has painted the word “enemy” on it in red. She hurries home, but David confronts her on the way. He asks her to stop writing articles about The Wave, and when she refuses, their argument escalates. He shouts at her and throws her on the ground. He immediately feels guilty for hurting Laurie, who he still loves.

Back at Mr. Ross’s house, Christy demands that Mr. Ross end The Wave tomorrow. He is not sure he even has the power to do that anymore. Just then, Laurie and David show up at his house. They ask him to stop The Wave, because it is hurting students and frightening the ones who don’t agree with the movement. Mr. Ross agrees, but explains that if he simply ends The Wave, the students won’t learn their lesson. He asks Laurie and David to be patient and trust him to end it in his own way. He also asks Laurie for the names of two students who have never been involved in The Wave. Laurie refers him to Alex and Carl, her friends from The Grapevine.


In these chapters, we learn more about the beating that Mr. Saunders told Laurie about in the previous section. However, the facts are not as clear-cut as they seem. “There was even some uncertainty over whether it was over The Wave, or whether The Wave was just an excuse the hoods had used to start a fight” (97). We also learn that the student is younger than the main characters and new to Gordon High.

By making the victim anonymous and removed from the main characters’ social circle, Strasser recreates the conditions that led to the Holocaust. Many average Germans did not have Jewish friends or acquaintances, so it was easier for them to distance themselves from the violence. It also underscores the differences between the main characters. David brushes off the beating because he didn’t know the victim, while Laurie and her family are very upset about it. This parallels the couple’s reaction to the Nazi film at the beginning of the book. David is able to shrug it off and enjoy his lunch, while Laurie remains disturbed for the rest of the day.

David’s violence toward Laurie further demonstrates The Wave’s destruction of families. It is significant that the only violence that occurs ‘onscreen’ is between a boyfriend and girlfriend (who have considered getting married), and not between friends or acquaintances. This demonstrates the fact that loyalty to The Wave often comes at the cost of loyalty to a person’s previously existing family relationships.

Strasser also uses this section to explore the psychology of group dynamics. At the football game, Brad is intimidated into enforcing the rules; he admits that he is afraid not to force Laurie to give the salute. As a monitor, he is supposed to be the intimidator––not the other way around. As The Wave becomes more popular, the students become afraid of each other even though there is no clear leader. Even the bully described in the anonymous letter is never named.

The students who defend The Wave most vehemently are the ones who have gained the most by being part of it. For example, Robert is very upset by Laurie’s criticisms of The Wave because for the first time in his life, his peers have accepted him. Even Amy has something to gain from The Wave. She was already pretty and popular, but The Wave means that she no longer has to compete with her friend Laurie. This helps to explain her stubbornness when Laurie confronts her with the editorial.