Study Guide

Tomorrow, When the War Began Setting

By John Marsden


Hell and Downtown Wirrawee; 1990s Australia

A group of teens in rural Australia takes off for a few days' leisure, but when they get back, home is missing all its hominess. This story basically takes place in two places: Hell and a small town called Wirrawee, where the Showground is. The Showground is where all the townsfolk are being held captive by an invading military. Dun dun dun…


Fiery pits and mountains of ash? Demons and ghouls wandering around aimlessly? Nah, Hell in Tomorrow, When the War Began is just a bit of wilderness with some lovely old trees and small animals. Ellie tells us, "It was beautiful though, quiet, shady, cool, and damp" (3.31). While it's super lovely up-close, Hell looks so uninviting from far away—Ellie says she can't even figure out how to get down into it from above (1.20). The funny thing is that Hell turns out to be a sort of peaceful paradise for the hiding teens, a sanctuary where the destructive evils of war can't touch them… yet. For more on this, hop on over to the "Symbols" section.

Downtown Wirrawee

Downtown Wirrawee is your average small town, with a dentist and a jeweler and neighborhoods filled with houses. It is also where the invading military have holed up. There are always lines of sentries marching about and the shops are a mess due to soldiers looting and such. The power is mostly out, and the streets are empty of people except for the military trucks and sentries. For these reasons, town is the riskiest place the kids go. Robyn tells Ellie that "they'd had trouble at every corner, nearly running into a patrol, having to hide from a truck, hearing footsteps behind them" (10.50) during their recon mission.

In short, their little town is swarming with military activity like an ant hive—which seems way more dangerous than Hell ever does.