Study Guide

The Wave Power

By Todd Strasser

Power

Chapter 1

He was "contagious," they'd say, meaning that he was charismatic. He could get them to follow through. (1.14)

Charisma is another word for charm. Many sociologists (people who study how societies function) believe that people are more likely to accept the authority of a leader who is charismatic. Ben's students accept his authority because they believe he can lead them places they want to go. Can you think of any charismatic leaders that you know?

Chapter 2
Ben Ross

"[Adolf Hitler] espoused the theory that the Jews were destroyers of civilization and that the Germans were a superior race. Today we know that Hitler was a paranoid, a psychopath, literally a madman. In 1932 he was thrown in jail for his political activities, but by 1934 he and his party had seized control of the German government." (2.3)

Sure, Hitler had some charisma (hard as this is for us to see), but as the above quote suggests, the people didn't <em>give</em> Hitler the power to lead them, he <em>took</em> it.

Chapter 3

There were two girls from Mr. Ross's history class sitting at the table Robert chose. As Robert set his tray down, they both stood up and took their trays to another table. Robert pretended he hadn't noticed. (3.3)

These two girls are trying to gain power in their society at the expense of one its members, Robert Billings. Robert is an outsider. The girls think that if they try to include Robert in their group, they might wind up on the outside, too.

Chapter 5
Ben Ross

"When I talk about discipline. I'm talking about power. […] And I'm talking about success. Success through discipline. Is there anyone here who isn't interested in power and success?" (5.8)

It's pretty common for kids in school to feel powerless. Adults tell them what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Ben knows all this and he pretty much abuses that knowledge by promising them the power he knows they couldn't otherwise have. Pretty sneaky, Teacher Ben.

Chapter 8

They <em>were </em>The Wave now and Ben realized they could act on their own without him if they wanted. The thought could have been frightening, but Ben was confident that he had control as their leader. (8.55)

It looks like the loveable Ben Ross is starting to enjoy the feeling of power he's getting from The Wave. This can't end well.

Ben Ross

"Ultimately discipline and community are meaningless without action. Discipline gives you the right to action. A disciplined group with a goal can take action to achieve it. They <em>must </em>take action to achieve it." (8.40)

This is probably true, right? But wait, what was the goal of The Wave?

Chapter 11

<em>Then he got mad. He said pretty soon people in The Wave wouldn't want to be friends with people who weren't in it. He even said I'd lose all my friends if I didn't join. </em>(11.10)

This is a passage from the anonymous letter Laurie gets at the school newspaper office. This kid is (justifiably) concerned because of the imbalance of power between Wave members and non-Wave members. Why do you think this student wrote the letter anonymously?

Somewhere in his mind he knew that by agreeing to let Robert be his bodyguard, he was also agreeing to be a person who required a body guard. (11.29)

By coming up with the body guard idea and putting it into action, Robert makes Ben look more powerful. But Ben's not the only one gaining power here: Robert is obviously interested in making himself more powerful, too. He wants to have a position of authority in The Wave and so he creates one for himself. Pretty clever, actually.

Chapter 15
Ben Ross

"I know what they're saying about me. That I'm crazy with power..." (15.8)

Ben does get caught up in things, but luckily he never quite goes crazy with his power. All he really wants is to teach some history.

He had read that power was seductive, and now he had experienced it. […] The members of The Wave were not the only ones who had to learn the lesson power taught. Their teacher did as well. (15.79)

The novel celebrates Ben's fresh and creative approach to teaching, but it also reminds teachers that experimental lesson plans need to be carefully thought through. Hopefully, after this experience, Ben can find ways to interest students in history without, you know, making the biggest mess ever.

"[…] I've already decided this is one lesson I'll skip in next year's course." (17.54)

Good idea, don't you think? What are some better ways Ben might be able to teach this part of history in the future? As a teacher, he has a lot of power to make things better or worse for his students. What can he do to avoid abusing this power in the future?

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