Study Guide

Tomorrow, When the War Began Man and the Natural World

By John Marsden

Man and the Natural World

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 The sweetness had gone; the sweet burning coldness had been replaced by a new humidity.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.