Study Guide

Tomorrow, When the War Began Fear

By John Marsden


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.