Textual interpretation

The Grapevine publication office as a safe space for freedom of expression 

The introduction of the novel the Wave by Morton Rhue (Chapter 1) takes place in the publication office of the school newspaper The Gordon Grapevine, whose editor-in-chief is Laurie Saunders. In this place it is possible for the students, or at least the team from the school newspaper, to express their opinions freely. We can see, then, that the central theme of the novel is suggested right at the beginning. The freedom of expression pursues  the characters throughout the novel and often leads to conflicts between The Wave supporters and the critical voices against the movement. Thus, freedom of expression is of tremendous importance to the novel as a whole. The incompatibility of free expression and peer pressure is skillfully elaborated by Morton Rhue.

In a sense, it can be seen as a leitmotif that the narrator returns to the publication office of the The Gordon Grapevine whenever freedom of expression is in danger, or a conflict threatens to escalate. This place is in contrast with Ben Ross’ history classes. It is Ross, in fact, who severely endangers freedom of expression by naming the community as the most important principle of all. The Wave definitely restricts the fundamental right of people to express their opinions as they wish.

Conflict between group ideology and individuality

The real conflict, however, arises from the subject of National Socialism. History teacher Ben Ross cannot explain to his students in a comprehensible way why the German population did not fight back against Hitler. The idea of an experiment arises in his mind. He collects all the characteristics that, in his opinion, were at the core of National Socialism and creates a movement: The Wave. In this way, he wants to awaken in his students a better understanding of the conditions of the time.

It is the special salute, the Wave symbol, and the membership cards that are meant to elaborate and symbolize the fascist character. Most striking, however, are the slogans “Strength Through Discipline”, “Strength Through Community”, and “Strength Through Action” which are meant to convey an ideology and imitate fascist consciousness. Students are expected to repeat these several times a day, act in accordance with them, and internalize them. The mottoes and the associated pursuit of power and community elevate the group above personal freedom and, by extension, freedom of expression. 

The feeling of being part of a group is of vital importance. The individual's own needs are put on the back burner, and all actions are dedicated to the group. Thus, Ben Ross approaches the fascist ch...

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