Suddenly, the loud buzzing became a roar. […] And like black bats screaming out of the sky, blotting out the stars, a V-shaped line of jets raced overhead […] Their noise, their speed, their darkness frightened me. (4.19)
Although this loud interruption in the middle of the night gets brushed off as probably part of the Commemoration Day ceremony, it leaves an icky aftertaste in Ellie's mouth.
I remember hearing on the radio someone saying how prisoners of war had been so grateful for any little scrap of food when they were liberated at the end of World War Two, then two days later they were complaining because they got chicken noodle soup instead of tomato. That was just like us—and still is. (5.41)
This foreshadows how they will feel in a bit once they realize food supplies are going to be real tight.
Fi nodded dumbly, tears rolling down her face. We were all crying again now, even Lee, who kept talking as he wept. (6.159)
We can see how emotionally explosive war is—realizing that everything about life as they've always known it has changed in the blink of an eye is a gut-wrenching moment for these teens.
When we left the Mackenzies' we moved cautiously. For the first time, we acted like people in a war, like soldiers, like guerillas. (7.23)
Gone are the days of just popping out the front door and walking down the street in broad daylight. Now, these kids have to make their moves under cover, keeping themselves as hidden as possible so soldiers don't see—and then capture—them.
[…] I wouldn't allow myself to really consider the possibility that mum or dad—or anyone else—had been injured or killed. I mean, I knew in my logical mind that such things were logical outcomes of invasions and fights and wars, but my logical mind was in a little box. (7.44)
All kinds of things get turned upside down after the invasion, and here's yet another example: Instead of relying on her logical mind to stay focused and keep her wherewithal, Ellie sets logic aside to rely on imagination, which offers up much more hope.
From my new vantage point I could see human movement: three men in uniforms emerged slowly from the shadows […] They carried weapons of some kind […] Despite all the evidence that we'd had already, this was the first confirmation that an enemy army was in our country, and was in control. (7.68)
Now we know for sure what's going down: No ifs, ands, or buts—war is officially on. From here on out, we're pretty much in an action-packed thrilled until the final page.
"You guys did well. Don't feel so bad. This is war now, and normal rules don't apply. These people have invaded our land, locked up our families. They caused your dogs to die, Ellie, and they tried to kill you three […]." (8.16)
Guilt is an unexpected side effect of war. Ellie did what she had to do to save her friends, but in order to do so, she had to do some damage to some soldiers. Since she's a decent human being, she feels none to good about this afterward.
From under each wing flew two little darts, two horrible black things that grew as they approached us. […] Corrie gave a cry that I'll never forget, like a wounded bird. One rocket hit the house, and one was all it took. The house came apart in slow motion. (9.92)
This is one of the worst things war has to offer: watching while the things you love get destroyed. With her family missing, Corrie's home is all the more significant—and now it's gone.
Homer had an ability to put himself into the minds of the soldiers […]. (10.2)
This war is really changing Homer. The former class clown is now using his creativity to imagine what the soldiers are thinking in order to help the group figure out how to navigate them.
I guess I'll keep fighting them, for the sake of my family. But after the war, if there is such a time as after the war, I'll work damn hard to change things. (13.43)
War definitely isn't simple. Here, Robyn understands the beef the invading soldiers have with Australia—she can see the validity of their perspective—and yet she resigns herself to fighting them anyway in order to help her family.
Homer was still rapt in Fi, always wanting to talk to me about her, trying to accidentally put himself wherever she happened to be going, turning red every time she spoke to him. (5.21)
Ah, young love. Come on, admit it—you've totally done stuff like this. We definitely have.
[…] Corrie standing alone in the middle of the sitting room, tears streaming down her face. The Kevin came in from checking the bedrooms, saw her, and moving quickly to her took her in his arms and held her close. They just stood there for quite a few minutes. I liked Kevin a lot for that. (7.12)
One of the very best things someone who loves you can do is just give you a hug when things are hard to handle. The fact that Kevin does that here shows that he really does love Corrie.
[…] I wanted to spend more time with this new Homer, this interesting and clever boy whom I'd known but not known for so many years. (10.8)
Homer's newfound confidence and competence seem to be turning Ellie's head, even though Homer has never looked good to her before. His personality has changed from goof-off to leader, and Ellie likes what she sees.
[…] two steers halfway up the ramp, just a couple of minutes away from death, but one was still trying to mount the other. […] that's a bit the way we were. 'In the midst of life we are in death.' We were in the middle of a desperate struggle to stay alive, but here was I, still thinking about boys and love. (10.9)
Weird. We don't know if we'd ever thought about the drive to find comfort, pleasure, and joy while destruction surrounds you… but it does make sense. And it helps explain why Ellie is writing so much about their little dramas and love business; it's an important part of how they overcome the terror of war.
We lay down together, still being very serious, and began touching each other, gently and lovingly. (12.13)
What can we say? War can be serious business, but so can crushes. Ooh la la…
I was kissing him back, but then I stopped. I didn't have plans to become the local slut and I didn't think it was a good idea to get involved with two guys at once. (12.32)
Yeah, when you have to live with both of the guys you're crushing on day in and day out for who knows how long, it might be best not to get too involved with either of them. It seems messy for interpersonal relations.
I felt guilty even thinking about love while our world was in such chaos […] but my heart was making its own rules and refusing to be controlled by my conscience. (13.87)
Ellie can't fight love any more than we can—there's basically no bossing around the human heart.
"Oh, Lee, I don't want to get rid of you. I don't want to get rid of anyone. We all have to get on, living in this place the way we are, for God knows how long."
"Yes," he said. "This place, Hell. It seems like Hell sometimes. Now for instance." (14.37-38)
This is bad news: Drama in isolation might cause some major trouble for this group of teens. They really have to stick together in order to survive.
He grinned. "How can I say I love you for your mind, after everything I've just said? But I do."
It was the first time he'd used the word love, and it sobered me, a bit. (15.75)
What will happen if Ellie decides she doesn't love Lee back? Love is plenty tricky in its own right, but it's all the trickier when there are literally only seven people around to interact with.
Hell is what's on the other side of Tailor's, a cauldron of boulders and trees and blackberries and feral dogs and wombats and undergrowth. It's a wild place, and I didn't know anyone who'd been there […]. (1.20)
The picture in our minds of Hell as "a cauldron" full of boiling, seething stuff gives us the willies. When Ellie describes this place, it doesn't seem like the kind of place to vacation with pals. But we are oh so wrong about this.
[…] Tailor's stitch seamed its way to the summit of Mt. Martin, a sharp straight ridge, bare black rocks forming a thin line as though a surgeon had make a giant incision centuries ago. (2.6)
This is a great image and one that isn't so far from the truth about how humans have treated nature. Ellie really is pretty good at metaphors.
"This is pretty nice for Hell," […]
"I wonder how many human beings have ever been down here, in the history of the Universe. […] Why would the early explorers, or settlers, have bothered? And no one we know has. Maybe the Hermit and us are the only people ever to have seen it. Ever." (3.32-34)
It is hard to imagine being in a place that so few people have ever been to, but it also seems pretty magical. There are so many people in the world. How would you feel if you were one of a tiny handful to see a natural place?
For any little wild things living in the clearing we must have seemed like visitors from Hell, not visitors to it. (3.38)
Wow, this thought really flips this theme on its head: Instead of it being man versus the natural world, it's more like the natural world versus man. Make sense when we think about it.
Kevin wanted to weigh the sleeping bag down in the creek with rocks until the snake drowned; Homer wasn't too keen on that. He liked his sleeping bag. (4.3)
Huh… We thought Homer might not like the idea because he respects animals' rights to life, but no—he respects his right to a sleeping bag.
And like black bats screaming out of the sky, blotting out the stars, a V-shaped line of jets raced overhead […]. There was a new atmosphere. The sweetness had gone; the sweet burning coldness had been replaced by a new humidity. I could smell the jet fuel. (4.19)
Here we see man interrupting nature, destroying the sense of calm it gives Ellie and infusing the air around her with an ominous sense.
Why did the English language have so few words for green? Every leaf and every tree had its own shade of green. Another example of how far Nature was still ahead of humans. (12.42)
Notice how Ellie capitalizes Nature? That shows mad respect, don't you think? Plus, as she notices here, humanity hardly keeps up with nature's infinite nuances—people are much too simple.
But I also wanted to stay here forever. If I stayed much longer I felt that I could become part of the landscape myself, a dark, twisted, fragrant tree. (16.30)
Our main character has a deeply rooted respect and love of nature. It's a good thing, too, since she's stuck living in the woods for who knows how long.
People, shadows, good, bad, Heaven, Hell: all of these were names, labels, that was all. Humans had created these opposites: Nature recognized no opposites. Even life and death weren't opposites in Nature: one was merely an extension of the other. (16.34)
Ellie discovers the purity of nature—in nature, things simply are, without judgment. It's humans who create hierarchy, marking some things are good and others as bad.
All these words like "evil" and "vicious," they meant nothing to Nature. Yes, evil was a Human invention. (18.21)
You know what else is a "Human invention"? The concept of hell and the decision to name the place the teens are hiding out in Hell. To nature, it's just the woods, nothing loaded about it.
We had to promise not to take grog and smokes […]. It made me wonder about the way adults turn growing up into such a complicated process. They expect you to be always on the lookout for a chance to do something wild. (1.25)
Actually, all families have to look out for each other, and sometimes that means making rules and giving warnings. Even if it doesn't change anything, it can make a parent feel better.
"So, will your parents let you go overseas?" I asked.
"I don't know. They might, if I work on them long enough." […]
"Your parents are so easy to get on with."
"So are yours." (5.11-14)
What's one of the best things about best friends? That they know your folks as well as you do.
Corrie gave al little cry. "No, that's being too logical! You're my best friends! I don't want to be that logical!"
Neither did I, when I thought about it. "Ok, then" I said. "All for one and one for all. Let's go. The three musketeers." (7.61-62)
This part shows how the friends begin to stick together in very real ways. They don't want to be alone, and they come to need each other, just like families do, sticking together no matter what.
"If I could get my family and friends back, healthy, I'd let the stupid people have the houses and cars and things. I'd go and live with my parents in a cardboard box at the tip and be happy." (13.53)
Fi misses her folks desperately. For her, they're the only thing that matters—the invaders an have anything they want so long as she can get her people back. Notice that she includes friends here as on par with family.
"I know what our parents would say," Fi said, "They'd say that the most important thing to them is our safety. They wouldn't want us dead in exchange for them living." (13.56)
Good point, Fi. Hopefully her suggestion warns the group that even though they want to know how their families are, the most important thing is that they stay alive and well.
As sleep crept up on me I turned my mind to my evening ritual […] a movie that I ran in my head every night. In the movie I watched my parents going about their normal lives. […] I didn't know if I was making myself feel bad by trying to make myself feel good, thinking about my parents, but it was my way of keeping them alive and in my thoughts. (15.33)
One way Ellie copes is by remembering all the normal things that used to make up her life, visiting the past to keep its flame lit in the present. She definitely doesn't want to forget her family as time goes by.
I'd noticed that the longer we stayed in Hell, the more we fell into natural rhythms, going to bed when it was dark and getting up at dawn. That wasn't the routine we had at home, no way. (15.36)
With their parents missing, the teenagers slowly become their own parents, taking good care of themselves without anyone telling them to do so.
All they said was they hadn't seen our families, but they'd been told they were safe at the Showground. When I heard this, it was such a relief that I sat down quickly on the ground, as though I'd had the breath knocked out of me. Lee leant against a tree with his hands over his face. I don't think anything else mattered to us much. (17.2)
This quote says it all: Family is the most important relationship of all. All the Hell gang really wants is for their families to be okay.
"OK boys and girls," she began. "Everyone ready for story time?" […] "You guys seem to have had an interesting couple of days yourselves. It mightn't be safe to leave you here alone again."
"OK Mum, get on with it," Homer said. (17.6-7)
Everyone's joking around here a bit, but still—Robyn does totally pull a mom here by picking up on the romantic shenanigans that went down while she and some of the others were off risking their necks to gather intel.
I choked on my sobs as I watched her lying there, her chest slowly rising and falling with each gurgling breath. This was my dear Corrie, my lifelong friend. If Homer was my brother, Corrie was my sister. (22.43)
Nothing says friends can be family like Ellie literally referring to Homer as her brother and Corrie as her sister. No wonder she's so torn up with worry about Corrie's fate after she's shot.
She picked up the phone and handed it to me. I turned it to "Talk" and started pressing numbers, then realized that I'd heard no dial tone. I held it closer to my ear. There was nothing. I felt a new kind of fear now; a kind of fear I hadn't even known about before. (6.9)
Hold on; we have to add something to our master list of Things Shmoop Is Afraid Of. After all, it never occurred to us before now to be afraid of experiencing kinds of fear we haven't even imagined yet.
Lee whispered something to Robyn. I didn't bother to ask them what it was. When I saw the naked fear on Robyn's face, I didn't want to ask. (6.30)
What does "naked fear" look like? One thing's certain: The fear Robyn feels here is so great she can't hide it.
We walked into the house together. As we went through the front door into the bleak dead silence she added, "Pray hard Ellie. Pray really hard. I am." (6.53)
One thing that a lot of religious folks do in the face of fear is pray. Ellie has revealed that she isn't very religious, but maybe Robyn's advice here can help her anyway.
When we left the Mackenzies' we moved cautiously. For the first time, we acted like people in a war, like soldiers, like guerillas. (7.23)
Once fear takes hold, people's actions change. Here, the Hell gang begins to be more watchful, quiet, and careful. Fear isn't just in their minds; it's informing how they use their bodies.
A small single movement was my key to finding my spirit. There was a tree about four steps away, in front of me and to my left, well inside the zone of light from the Showground. I suddenly made myself leave the darkness and go to it, in four quick light steps, a dance that surprised me, but made me feel a little light headed and proud. […] It was a dance of courage. (7.65)
This is the first, and most important, step Ellie takes toward conquering her fear. This one moment sets her up for many more brave moments later on—it's such a small thing to do, but so significant.
Bullets zinged past […] I heard a gasp from Corrie and a cry from Kevin. It was as though I left the ground, with sheer fear. For a moment I lost contact with the earth. It was a strange feeling, like I had ceased to be. Then I was diving at the corner of the road, rolling through the grass and wriggling like an earwig into cover. (7.79)
Whoa, we cannot believe how scary that would be. Ellie and her friends show their drive to survive by snapping out of their frozen fear and finding cover.
Somehow, with no air in my lungs, I started to run. (7.81)
Ellie might feel free all the time in this book, but it never stops her. This girl has serious chutzpah when it comes to stuff that scares her.
Their policy was to preserve their own lives at any cost. If they suspected danger in a house, they'd set up a rocket launcher and destroy the house, rather than go in to a possible ambush. (10.54)
The invading army has so much power, and yet in their over-the-top response to possible danger, it's clear their actions are motivated by fear. Whatever happened to strength in numbers?
[…] I want people to know about stuff like this, how brave Robyn was that night. […] She picked up the photocopier […] and chucked the whole thing through the door. Then she ran to Lee, heaved him onto her back, across her shoulders, and carried him through the shattered door, kicking out bits of glass as she went. (10.59)
Remind us never to mess with Robyn, okay? Because clearly, fear doesn't break her stride—not even for a moment. Lee is super lucky to have her around in this moment.
My fear came from love. Love for my friends. I didn't want to let them down. If I did, they would die. (11.2)
Ellie makes an interesting point here: For her, fear comes from love, and this love is the same thing that motivates her to overcome her fear to take action. Pretty deep stuff.
"If you were going to invade, that'd be a good day to do it," Lee said. "Everyone's out celebrating. […] Who's running the country?" (4.44)
Lee uses what he knows about war to come up with a pretty decent account of what could have happened while the teens were blissfully camping. And you know what? He's right.
It was a pretty typical conversation I guess, but for some reason it was getting on my nerves. I got up and went down to the creek […]. (4.46)
Ellie's wisdom gives her an annoying feeling that something isn't right. Sometimes our minds recognize new knowledge before we're ready to fully accept it as a possibility.
Why did people call it Hell? I wondered. All those cliffs and rocks, and that vegetation, it did look wild. But wild wasn't Hell. Wild was fascinating, difficult, wonderful. (4.74)
Great show of logic here. Ellie reasons out that what something is called doesn't actually represent what that thing is, because things mean something different to different people. Some people are so afraid of uncontrolled places that the wilderness is Hell to them.
No, Hell wasn't anything to do with places, Hell was all to do with people. Maybe Hell was people. […]
No place was Hell, no place could be Hell. It's the people calling it Hell, that's the only thing that made it so. (4.74-76)
This is classic Ellie wisdom. She sees through human constructs, realizing how arbitrary the values are that humans assign to things and recognizing that really, things are pretty neutral.
My worst fight was really stupid. I don't know, maybe all fights are really stupid. (5.25)
Do you think Ellie's right about this? Why or why not?
I suddenly made myself leave the darkness and go for it […] It was a dance of courage. I felt then, and still feel now, that I was transformed by those four steps. (7.65)
Facing fears leads to personal growth and courage. Here, Ellie learns that she is braver than she previously thought, capable of acting boldly and decisively in terrifying situations.
"The biggest risk is to take no risk. Or to take crazy risks." (9.41)
Homer is getting pretty good at this thinking business. Here he recognizes that not doing anything is just as dangerous as doing something completely over the top.
But his big motto is "Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted." (7.23)
Corrie's dad is wicked wise, and fortunately, the teens are smart enough to recognize this and take his advice to heart. By doing so, they learn a lot from spying about what's going on.
There were a lot of things to be unhappy about, but somehow the paper I'd read in the Hermit's hut, and the long beautiful kiss with Lee, had given me a better perspective on life. I knew it wouldn't last, but I tried to enjoy it while it did. (16.26)
Few things are wiser, in our humble opinion, than being able to appreciate the moment.
First thing we found was a biscuit bag we'd overlooked when packing the food the night before. It was empty. Thanks to us some grateful animal was now a lot fatter. (4.1)
Is this an epic mistake? Nope—but it is foolish. And enough foolishness around food will leave this group super hungry.
Basically we just lay around and ate, in one long pigout. (4.2)
Yeah, this eating up of all the food all at once is pretty foolish of the Hell gang. They're just banking on being able to leave and get food whenever they want to… which they'll come to regret later.
"No! If we're being strictly logical, like Homer was before, we shouldn't all sneak in close to the Showground." […] Corrie gave a little cry. "No! That's being too logical! You're my best friends! I don't want to be that logical!"
Neither did I, when I thought about it. (7.61-62)
Homer has the right idea about not traveling in large groups, but these three foolishly decide to stick together anyway, making a choice that could turn out to be a disaster all in the name of fear and friendship.
It was only then that I realized that while thinking about ambushes I'd actually led Kevin and Corrie into a trap. (7.83)
This mistake could have cost them their lives, but luckily, Ellie is a fast thinker. She is forced through her foolish move to do something she'll regret forever, though: kill the soldiers that follow them.
"[…] Flip's out there, wandering around. They must have seen her from the helicopter."
"That might be enough to make them suspicious." […]
"We've got a lot to learn, assuming we even come out of this." […]
"Let's get cracking," he said. "We've been lucky. We can't afford to make that many mistakes again." (9.62-80)
Here, the group's oversight costs Corrie her home as it gets blown up by a missile, and it nearly costs them their lives, too. Homer is right, though: They need to learn from these mistakes and not repeat them.
My poor driving was at least making it hard for the soldiers—we were an erratic target. […] In the wing mirror on my side I caught one glimpse of a small vehicle […] We smashed into it bloody hard and ran right over the top of it. […] I felt sorry for Lee: I'd forgotten to raise the shovel. (11.9-10)
Whoa—Lee is terribly injured and totally unprotected in the shovel, which Ellie foolishly forgets. They are all lucky that Lee doesn't get thrown out as she does so many dangerous things behind the wheel.
[…] I was confused between my feelings for him and my feelings for Homer. Last night I'd been holding hands with Homer, and feeling so warm and good about it, and now here I was with Lee. I didn't have any plans to become the local slut and I didn't think it was a good idea to get involved with two guys at once. (12.32)
Uh, yeah, about that… When there are only seven of you and nowhere else to go, multiple romantic dalliances probably isn't such a hot idea. The heart can want what it wants, but sometimes the head has to intervene to prevent foolish behavior from messing everything up.
Chris was getting on all too well. He was asleep, and I was furious. […] it was unforgiveable for Chris to have gone to sleep. He'd risked the lives of all of us by being so slack. (12.34)
Do you this reveals the kind of character Chris is? Whether it does or not, he botches the first job he gets, which is a pretty foolish move.
"I'd hate to spoil that by us two suddenly having a falling out and deciding we didn't want to see each other, or we were embarrassed to be together. That'd be awful. […]
"Oh, Ellie," Lee said. "Why do you have to reason everything through all the time? The future is the future […]." (15.60-61)
For once, Ellie is not being foolish; Lee is. She's just trying to think through how she feels and what kind of dynamic she wants at camp. After all, she and Lee comprise practically one-third of their group members—getting along is pretty important.
Chris had brought back a few packets of smokes and two bottles of port that he'd "souvenired", as he called it. […] I couldn't help wondering how far we could go with this "souveniring" idea. […] If we were going to ignore the laws of the land, we had to work out our own standards instead. (17.3)
Do you think Ellie's right in her assessment that it's foolish for folks to just start doing things without thinking about consequences, both short and long term?
"Well, did you con them into it?"
Unfortunately it was Mr. Mathers who answered. […]
I was embarrassed, but laughing too, cos I knew I could twist Mr. Mathers round my pinkie. […]
This was the biggest thing they'd ever trusted her on, so she was keen for it to work out. (1.72-1.88)
Ellie does a really good job of helping Robyn get permission from her parents to come camping with her friends, something she's never been allowed to do before. Robyn's too scared to ask herself, so it's good of Ellie to help.
Homer and I had spent all our free time together when we were little, and we were still close. (1.101)
Some friends are forever friends, which is exactly the case with Homer and Ellie. These two have known each other since early childhood and it seems they'll be sticking together until the bitter end.
"Ellie," Homer said solemnly, "I'll never call you a stupid dumb obstinate slagheap again."
It was a sweet moment. (3.2)
Well, isn't that nice. Looks like they are close enough for Ellie not to take offense. In fact, these two seem more like siblings (at this point) than anything else.
Corrie and I were probably the most energetic. We took a few walks, back to the bridge, or to different cliffs, so we could have long private conversations. We talked about boys and friends and school and parents, all the usual stuff. (5.2)
Things might be totally abnormal all around them, but Ellie and Corrie still make time to be totally ordinary best friends, going for long walks to talk about their lives.
The Kevin came in from checking the bedrooms, saw her, and moving quickly to her took her in his arms and held her close. They just stood there for quite a few minutes. (7.12)
This shows just how close Kevin and Corrie are: Without exchanging a word, Kevin knows exactly how to comfort Corrie in this moment. Such a good friend.
No! If we're being strictly logical, like Homer was before, we shouldn't all sneak in close to the Showground. One of us should go and the other two stay here. Less chance of being seen, and less loss if one gets caught."
Corrie gave a little cry. "No! That's being too logical! You're my best friends! I don't want to be that logical!" (7.60-61)
All for one and one for all, eh? They do stick together when things are risky, but they also all suffer the consequences.
"I thought you didn't believe in friendship anymore," Kevin said. "Seems a hell of a risk to go to Lee's, if we're so worried about saving ourselves."
Homer looked at him coldly and even Corrie rolled her eyes. (9.37-38)
Wait, wait, wait… Kevin goes a little far saying that Homer doesn't believe in friendship—he just wants to save Lee in safest way possible, that's all. Kevin is just feeling grumpy, we think.
She stopped hiccupping and just sobbed […]. We dried her and hugged her, but it was hours before she calmed enough even to look at us. […] Corrie would not move, and we could not move until she did. (10.95)
Friends take good care of one another, especially during the hardest times. Corrie is lucky to have hers around during her breakdown.
[…] Homer came up beside me to ride two abreast. "Hold my hand Ellie," he said. "Can you ride one-handed?"
[…] But we talked a bit, not about bombs and death and destruction, but about stupid little things. (10.10-11)
Friendship rescues these pals from feeling really terrible. Instead of talking about all the hard stuff they're going through, they slip into the safety of simple friendly conversation.
"He's been shot," she said, and I felt as though I'd been shot and everything in the world had died. (10.43-44)
It's because of strong friendships and empathy that these kids are brave for each other. Otherwise, Lee probably would have died because Ellie would have been too scared to risk her life to save him.