The 5th Wave


Ben Parish

Like Cassie, Ben is a fairly average American teenager—endowed with a few particular gifts, like good looks and athleticism. After the invasion, however, Ben is transformed into a warrior. Ben differs from Cassie in that he has actually lost his entire family; thus, he is at first more vulnerable to hopelessness. Since he is racked with guilt about his failure to save his younger sister, Ben is haunted and defeated. It seems he would actually welcome death, and understandably so; after all, what does he have left to live for?

Ben’s feelings of guilt and depression make him especially susceptible to Vosch’s brainwashing tactics. Vosch plays on Ben’s desire for revenge—the last powerful emotion left to a young man who has lost everything else, it seems. In this sense, Vosch unwittingly saves Ben and turns him into a formidable enemy. As the old adage goes, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” and this proves true for both Cassie and Ben. Ben’s coming-of-age happens during an alien apocalypse, rather than on a high school football field; ultimately, this renders him a much more powerful person than he would have been otherwise. On the whole, Ben is not quite as clever as Cassie or Ringer—who figures out that they have been brainwashed long before Ben does—but he is a genuinely kind and resourceful person, as evidenced by his determination to save Sammy. Since Ben is far from perfect, he is a realistic teenager; at the same time, he becomes a hero the reader can root for.

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