Study Guide

Homer in Tomorrow, When the War Began

By John Marsden


Homer is Ellie's go-to guy, her brother-from-another-mother and one of her oldest friends. Since Ellie's our leading lady, it's safe to say that Homer's a pretty important character in Tomorrow, When the War Began. So let's treat him like an onion and peel back some of his layers to really understand who this dude is.

From Wild Child to Willing Captain

Once upon a time, back before the war, Homer was the class clown, ready for any kind of prank. While everyone likes a good laugh, this came with some serious mistrust—people just weren't sure Home could be taken seriously. As Elli reflects on how the war changes Homer, she notes:

Homer was becoming more surprising with every passing hour. It was getting hard to remember that this fast-thinking guy, who'd just spent fifteen minutes getting us all laughing and talking and feeling good again, wasn't even trusted to hand out the books at school. (8.59)

Once the war begins and the poop hits the fan, Homer channels his knack for commanding an audience toward the collective good of the gang of teens hanging out in the woods alone. Instead of using his humor to disrupt class, he uses it to disrupt bad moods and tense moments, bringing everyone back together and helping them stay on task in terms of figuring out what to do. Without Homer around to help everyone "feel good again," who knows whether this group would manage to stick together.

Big Hairy Guerilla

Homer isn't just there to provide comic relief in tense moments, though—dude can seriously plan ahead. Homer is a key figure in the Hell gang's development and implementation of strategy. For instance, after Homer and a few others head into town for a bit of spying and info gathering, Ellie relays the following upon their return:

It was midafternoon before we had energy to talk tactics. It was obvious that Homer had spent a good bit of time thinking about the bridge, because he went straight to the point.

"Let's blow it up," he said, his eyes shining. (19.15)

In other words, Ellie might be the one who goes right into the thick of the action when it comes to implementing plans (more on this over on Ellie's page elsewhere in this section), but Homer's the one who concocts the plans in the first place. This guy is the mastermind of the group, and all the major moves they make are planned by him:

That was Homer's genius. He combined action with thought, and he planned ahead. He sensed, I think, that inaction was our enemy. (9.46)

While some of the other teens might think the invading soldiers are the enemy, Homer knows that sitting around doing nothing is the real barrier to their potential well-being. Disinclined to sit idly by and see what happens, Homer consistently rallies the group to action, encouraging them to make plans and take each day in their own hands. Thanks to his humor and clarity of vision, he succeeds in rallying his troops time and again, keeping them alive.

Love, Greek Style

If you're thinking a stud muffin like Homer probably sets the ladies swooning, you're not wrong. Although she's way above him on the teenage social scale, Fiona finds Homer pretty dreamy thanks to his strong leadership and quick wit. And you know what? Though she and Homer have been friends since forever, Ellie is kind of jealous of Fiona's affection for him, making it clear that he isn't just kind of a catch—he's definitely a catch. Though Ellie ultimately realizes she doesn't want more than friendship with Homer, this takes a little thinking through on her part. He's not not dreamy, you know?

At one point, while Fi and Ellie are discussing Mr. Hot Pants, they share the following exchange:

"I don't know if I like him as much as he likes me, that's one thing. I'd hate to get into a relationship with him where he assumed I felt as strongly as he does. […] He's so…"

She couldn't think of a word to end the sentence, so I supplied one. "Greek?"

"Yes!" (15.18-20)

What does Fi mean by saying Homer is "Greek"? Well, on one level, there's a bit of a joke tucked in here: After all, Homer shares his name with the dude who supposedly wrote the Greek epic poem the Odyssey. Good joke, huh? Okay, maybe it's a little dry.

On another level, what Fi's referring to is a stereotype about Greek people having strong personalities and being quick to passion. Because of this, Fi goes on to tell Ellie that she feels like she has to "keep him at arm's length or he'll just take over" (15.26). His strong personality, then, doesn't just make him a good leader—it also makes him a little tricky to be in a relationship with.

Given how high stakes the situation is that the kids find themselves in, we're thinking this downside is totally worth it to everyone, even Fi.