Study Guide

Tomorrow, When the War Began War

By John Marsden


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.