Study Guide

Tomorrow, When the War Began Hell

By John Marsden


Let's do a bit of free association, shall we? When we say hell, what comes to mind? We're betting some of the following words are floating around your brain right now:

  • Fiery
  • Evil
  • Frightening

Are there other descriptors for the absolute worst place ever that you can think of? We're sure there are. Whatever you might come up with, though, the point is that hell usually doesn't conjure warm, fuzzy feelings.

And yet, in Tomorrow, When the War Began, Hell is pretty much the most heavenly place Ellie and her pals know. Ellie describes is as "quiet, shady, cool, and damp" (3.31), which sounds a lot more like Eden than a place we'd like to avoid at all costs. It is an oasis, offering up the perfect place for Ellie and her pals to live and hide away peacefully without fear of being busted by the military at any moment. Quite difficult to reach, the kids are tucked away in their own little paradise while the world around them crumbles.

The name, then, clearly doesn't fit the place: Hell is actually quite heavenly. And this is the key point—everything is inverted in this book. A day of community celebration turns into a day of collective tragedy; a quick little camping trip becomes a camping trip with no end in sight; kids are trying to save their parents; and Hell is the safest place around while everyone's homes are places of intense danger and uncertainty.