Study Guide

The Wave Identity

By Todd Strasser

Identity

Chapter 1

If they were studying the political system, he would divide the class into political parties. If they studied a famous trial, he might assign one student to be the defendant, others to be the prosecution and defense attorneys, and still others to sit on the jury. (1.14)

Ben realizes that for his students to really get something out of the study of history, they need to see how it's relevant to their lives. One way to do this? Role-play. By trying on these different identities, by acting out history, students are able to relate to it.

Chapter 5

As David watched, the class loser straightened some of the hair on his head and stared at his reflection. Then he snapped to attention and his lips moved silently, as if he was still in Mr. Ross's class answering questions. (5.86)

In the movie on which <em>The Wave</em> is based, the camera is the only witness to Robert's strange behavior in the bathroom. But in the novel, it's crucial that David see Robert. After all, Robert is a big reason people believe in The Wave. If this group can help someone like Robert, it has to be a good thing… right?

The Gordon High Community

As they got into the correct order, they couldn't help noticing that Robert was at the head of the line. "The new head of the class," someone whispered […]. (5.32)

Robert is the school outcast. For him, The Wave is an opportunity for a new identity. What do you think? Did it work?

Chapter 7

"Honey, just remember that the popular thing is not always the right thing." (7.17)

Sure, Laurie is popular, but that doesn't make it any easier to stay true to herself. In fact, it might make it harder: she has to distinguish between popular and just plain right.

"But still, people have to do things in their own way. You talk about the greatness of this country and you're talking about people who weren't afraid to act as individuals." (7.12)

Laurie's mother argues that it was single individuals who helped make the U.S. a strong country. This emphasis on individual over group identity is very influential for Laurie and it causes her to question The Wave and everything it stands for. But tell us: do you agree? Why or why not?

Chapter 8
Ben Ross

"Now you will all have membership cards," Mr. Ross announced. "If you turn them over, you will find that some of them have been marked with a red X. If you have a red X you are to be a monitor, and you will report directly to me any members of The Wave who do not follow our rules." (8.31)

On top the symbol, motto, and salute, Ben now provides a more official way to identify as a Wave member. How does this affect the way students feel about The Wave?

"Now your first action as a team will be to actively recruit new members. To become a member of The Wave, each new student must demonstrate knowledge of our rules and pledge strict obedience to them." (8.45)

And yet again, Ben is taking another dangerous step. Notice how he introduces this recruitment goal just after he busts out the identity cards. How do these two things go hand in hand?

Chapter 9
Laurie Saunders

"[…] I want you all to do something. Since we have a few days before the paper has to come out. Try to find out everything you can about what kids think of The Wave." (9.48)

Laurie stays true to her identity as a journalist: she remains unbiased and just tries to find out the <em>truth</em>.

Chapter 11
Robert Billings

"So can I do it," Robert asked. "I know you need a bodyguard. I could do it, Mr. Ross." (11.27)

Ben and Robert both undergo drastic changes in identity during this experiment-gone-wrong. Here we see it in action: in a split second, Ben becomes someone that needs to be protected, and Robert becomes a bodyguard. Easy as pie. (Can you see why things were able to spiral out of control so quickly?)

Chapter 14

He swallowed the three aspirins and avoided looking in the mirror. Was he afraid of who he might see? A high school teacher who had accidentally slipped into the role of a dictator? (14.25)

It takes him long enough, but Ben eventually realizes that he has gotten so caught up in his new identity as Wave leader that he's forgotten his role as teacher.

Chapter 16
David Collins

"I don't know, Laurie. I don't know if I want to go back. I feel like… like The Wave got me once and if I go back it might get me again." (16.60)

Poor David! When he realizes that he took on a new, not-so-nice identity as Wave member, he's totally ashamed. In fact, he doesn't even trust himself anymore. The novel suggests that the best way to guard against such feelings is to develop a strong sense of personal identity, like Laurie has.

Chapter 17

He turned and was about to leave the stage when he heard a sob and saw Robert leaning against one of the television sets , tears running down his face. (17.57)

The identity that gave Robert power and got other kids to respect him turned out to be something ugly – and a lie to boot. His biggest concern is probably that he will fall back into his old identity as class loser.

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