by Todd Strasser
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
Third Person (Omniscient)
The third-person narrator of The Wave is flexible and practical, and sometimes a little mysterious. Being able to slip into the minds of any character he wants gives readers VIP access to different takes on The Wave. Not a bad deal for us.
Even though he has this know-it-all superpower, our narrator most closely follows the three main characters: Ben Ross, Laurie Saunders, and David Collins. The story is mostly told from their points of view and we see most of the other characters and action through their eyes.
This means that we actually learn what Ben, Laurie, and David think and feel about the whole Wave situation. No so with the rest of the gang. Most notably missing in the we-know-your-thoughts department is Robert Billings. He's a main character, sure, but we can only understand so much about him because we never get to hear his side of the story.
Why doesn't the narrator give us access to Robert's thoughts? Is it trying to make him more mysterious? Or does he assume we can figure him out on our own? It might be a little bit of both. The Wave turned him from school outcast to leader of the pack. And in the end, even though we don't get his perspective, we can imagine the range of emotions he could be feeling: anger, embarrassment, confusion, resentment, and probably despair.
The Little People
While the narrator carefully steers clear of Robert's (probably dark and twisted) mind, it does offer the points of view of some minor characters. Think about Ben's wife, Christy Ross. She isn't directly involved in the Wave, but we have access to her thoughts, like in this passage from early in the book:
Someone else might have been offended by [Ben's] apparent rudeness, but Christy wasn't. She knew Ben was the kind of person who got involved with things. Not just involved, but utterly absorbed in them to the point where he tended to forget that the rest of the world existed. (4.17)
Christy's point of view helps us get a better grip on Ben, and, maybe even more importantly, raises important objections to The Wave. The narrator of this novel is presenting us with a running argument or debate over Ben's experiment. Christy's point of view helps us see the many sides of this debate.
Other than Christy, do we have access to any other minor characters thoughts? And do you think the third person omniscient narrator was the best choice for this novel? How might it have been different if told in the first person by Ben Ross or Laurie Sanders?