Summary – Chapter Six
Ben is late the next day for class and when he enters the room he expects to find a ‘madhouse’ but gets a surprise instead. The students are sitting upright, as he taught them, and the desks are in neat rows. The room is silent and he wonders if it is a joke. He is tempted into carrying on his experiment. He asks Robert what is going on and Robert answers in the way they were taught the day before and says ‘“Mr Ross, discipline”’.
Ben agrees and says there is more too and adds the word ‘Community’ to ‘Strength Through Discipline’ on the board. He describes community as being part of something that is more important than one person. David knows what he means as he thought this about the team yesterday.
Ben says from now on their mottos will be ‘Strength Through Discipline’ and ‘Strength Through Community’ and asks everyone to repeat them. Most of them rise and recite the slogans. A few including Laurie and Brad remain uncomfortably seated. They join in eventually, though. Ben tells them they now need a symbol for their new community. He draws a circle and puts an outline of a wave inside it. He says the wave is ‘“a pattern of change”’ and has ‘“movement, direction and impact”’. He adds the following: ‘“From now on, our community, our movement will be known as The Wave.”’ He then cups his right hand in the shape of a wave, taps it against his left shoulder and holds it upright. He tells them this will be their salute. The class gives the salute and some get it wrong. He orders them to repeat it and they are asked to do this until everyone gets it right. He says this is only their salute and when they see another member he orders them to salute each other.
He asks Robert to give the salute and mottos and Robert does so. He asks four others to join in and they do so, and then more and more until the whole class is ‘saluting and chanting loudly in unison’. Ben thinks they are ‘like a regiment’.
The narrative shifts to after school and Eric and David are in the gym. They are early for football practice and are having a heated debate about The Wave. Eric thinks it is a ‘“dumb game”’ from history and David says it could still work for the team and could be what it needs. Brian comes in and David asks what he thinks to him inviting the other team members into The Wave. Brian jokes that he would do anything to beat Clarkstown and stop their linebacker. Deutsch, a rival of Brian’s, makes a sneering comment and David comes between the two to stop them fighting.
He says this is what he was talking about and that they are supposed to be a team. He explains his point further and says ‘“a bunch of self-serving individuals don’t make a team”’. The others have come in by now and they ask how they can do this. Eric encourages him to tell them about The Wave. The chapter ends with him telling them about the mottos and the salute.
Analysis – Chapter Six
The Wave begins to find cohesion in this chapter as Ben introduces the use of mottos and slogans and gives the movement an identity. He draws on the workings of past fascist groups, such as the National Socialists, to pull the students into his experiment because the signs these external effects are proven to unite a body of people.
It is with perhaps surprising ease that he manages to do this as the majority enjoy fulfilling the tasks he sets them. It is, however, in keeping with his point that so-called ordinary citizens and in this case students are as susceptible as anybody else in the call to fascism.
It is also of interest that David spots a use for The Wave in that it could help unify the football team. He overlooks the dangers of such an exercise in and in so doing only notices how it might benefit him and those close to him. By being so short-sighted, he fails to look at the implications of such a group and therefore highlights how The Wave and National Socialism might infiltrate mainstream society.