Study Guide: The Wave by Todd Strasser - BookNotes

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The story takes place primarily in the fictional Gordon High School, which is set in a small suburban community. Some scenes also take place in the homes of Ben Ross and Laurie Sanders. As the novel's foreword explains, the real life event took place in a high school in Palo Alto, California.


Major Characters

Laurie Saunders
A smart and outgoing senior student at Gordon High School. She is the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Gordon Grapevine. She is a student in Ben Ross' history class and the main opposing voice against The Wave. She becomes the vigilant resistant force after she initially likes the idea, but then is drawn into opposition by the respect she has for history and the opinion of others. She sees the harmful direction of the wave and sets forth to end it.

Ben Ross
An intelligent and energetic history teacher at Gordon High who's popular among his students for his enthusiasm and accessibility. He creates The Wave as an experiment to show his students how fascism can be embraced by the masses. He creates an experiment to see what it would have been like in Nazi Germany during World War II.

David Collins
A senior student at Gordon High School and the captain of their football team. He is a student in Ben Ross' history class and the most idealistic about what The Wave can achieve. He is also Laurie's boyfriend.

Robert Billings
A senior student at Gordon High School who's become the outcast since he'd rather give up than live up to his older brother's standards. He is weak and shy in many ways, perceivably because of the success of his older brother, but The Wave becomes his salvation, giving him new-found self-confidence and for the first time in his life, social status. Through it, he finds acceptance among the groups that had so long before found him to be an outcast.

Minor Characters

Mr. Gabondi
A French teacher at Gordon High School.

Amy Smith
Laurie Saunders' best friend and a student in both Mr. Gabondi's French class Ben Ross' history class.

A student in Ben Ross' history class who has a history of picking on Robert Billings.

Jeff Billings
Robert Billings' older brother, who is never seen in the story but whose outstanding qualities as a student and athlete haunt Robert mentally in his daily life.

Brian Ammon
A student in Ben Ross' history class and the quarterback of the Gordon High School football team.

Principal Owens
The principal of Gordon High School, he becomes the voice of the wider community in the novel.

Carl Block
Gordon High School student who is also the investigator reporter for The Grapevine.

Alex Cooper
Gordon High School student who is also the music reviewer for The Grapevine.

Christy Ross
The wife of Ben Ross, as well as the music and choir instructor at Gordon High School.

Betty Lewis
A friend of Christy Ross who plays tennis with her.

A student in Ben Ross' history class and member of the football team.

A junior who is the second string quarterback, he wishes to replace Brian Ammon.

Midge Saunders
The mother of Laurie Saunders, concerned about The Wave and its influence.

Mr. Saunders
The father of Laurie Saunders and husband of Midge Saunders, he is initially more complacent about The Wave than his wife.

George Snyder
A student in Mr. Ross’ History class and member of The Wave.

Norm Schiller
Biology teacher and football coach.

Elaine Billings
The mother of Jeff and Robert Billings.

Unnamed Jewish Boy
Harassed by members of The Wave and called a “dirty Jew”.

Angry parents
Complainants to Principal Owens.

Unnamed Rabbi
The Rabbi for the unnamed Jewish boy.

Adolf Hitler
The German dictator who instigated World War II and is responsible for the Holocaust.

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