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David is the Mr. Popular to Laurie's Miss Popular. He's star of the football team and is well-liked and admired by most of the kids at school. But, unlike Laurie, David doesn't feel so successful. For one thing, his grades are mediocre. Plus, he might be the star of the team, but the team always loses!
David thinks The Wave can solve both of these problems. But over the course of the novel, he learns there is no quick fix for problems like getting bad grads or losing football games. And more importantly, he learns a lot about himself – his strengths and his weaknesses.
What are we supposed to think of David? On the one hand, he physically assaults his girlfriend. This is very not cool and very illegal. But it's hard to completely hate him because his motives are mostly good: he wants to bring the football team together in spirit and help isolated students like Robert feel like they belong. And of course, in the end, he's able to admit where he was wrong, and do what he can to make up for it. So what's your vote?
David finds himself doing things he knows aren't right – like using threats and intimidation to try to stop Laurie from speaking out against The Wave. He is easily pressured by his peers into doing something he knows is wrong.
Let's take a closer look:
"Laurie Saunders is a threat," Robert stated bluntly. "She must be stopped." (14.34)
[David's friend Brian quiets David and leads him away when David starts to challenge Robert's super-villain attitude.]
"[…] I don't like Robert's attitude," David hissed back. "It's like we must wipe out anyone who resists us. That's the exact opposite of how we should approach this." (14.39)
David doesn't seem at all confused about the difference between right and wrong here. So why isn't David able to stand up to his friends? Why does he erupt in violence when Laurie won't see things his way? Read on for some food for thought.
The Wave taxes David's relationship with Laurie almost immediately. When Laurie tells David what her mother said about The Wave, it starts what seems to be their first major argument:
"She's crazy," David said. "How could she know? And besides, what do you care about what your mother says? You know she worries about everything."
"I didn't say I agreed with her," Laurie said.
"Well, you didn't say you disagreed with her either," David said. (8.8-10)
From what we gather, David has up to now been very respectful of Laurie and her parent. But now David is both dissing her mom, and trying to pressure her to support The Wave! While things seem to be improving for him academically and socially, the relationship that means the most to him is suffering. And it only gets worse. So what gives? Why does he become violent toward Laurie, grabbing her wrist and knocking her to the ground?
Seriously, we're asking: do you think David's violence is an isolated incident as a result of an extreme situation, or a deeper character flaw? And is it realistic that he would make such an abrupt turnaround? All of these questions make David a very problematic character. But we here at Shmoop love problematic characters: they make us think.