Tomorrow, When the War Began: Summary and Analysis


Written by Anna Jurman


Tomorrow, When the War Began: Summary and Analysis

Tomorrow, When the War Began: Summary and Analysis

In the realm of young adult fiction, few series have left an indelible mark as profoundly as John Marsden’s “Tomorrow, When the War Began.” This exhilarating saga, consisting of seven books, embarks on a thrilling journey through the eyes of a group of Australian teenagers who must summon their inner strength, resourcefulness, and courage when their hometown is invaded during a camping trip. As we delve into the captivating world of “Tomorrow, When the War Began,” we uncover not only a gripping narrative but also a treasure trove of themes, character developments, and societal commentaries that resonate deeply with readers of all ages.

In this in-depth analysis blog post, we will navigate the narrative of “Tomorrow, When the War Began” with a keen eye for its multifaceted themes, compelling characters, and the broader implications of the story. We will explore how this series transcends the boundaries of typical young adult literature, offering profound insights into the complexities of human nature, the power of resilience, the consequences of war, and the timeless struggle between good and evil. Moreover, we will dissect the characters’ growth throughout the series, revealing how they evolve from ordinary teenagers into extraordinary heroes, demonstrating the indomitable spirit of youth.

As we embark on this literary journey through the heart-pounding adventures and moral dilemmas of Ellie, Lee, Homer, Fi, Robyn, Corrie, and Kevin, we will unravel the layers of this remarkable series and appreciate the enduring relevance of its themes in our world today. “Tomorrow, When the War Began” is more than just a thrilling page-turner; it is a thought-provoking exploration of the human condition in the face of adversity. So, fasten your seatbelts, dear readers, as we step into the world of Ellie Linton and her courageous friends, ready to unearth the hidden treasures of this captivating series.


“Tomorrow, When the War Began” is a young adult novel written by Australian author John Marsden. Published in 1993, the book is the first in a series of seven, known as the “Tomorrow” series. Set in the fictional rural town of Wirrawee in Australia, the story revolves around a group of seven teenagers who, during a camping trip, return home to find their town invaded and their families captured by an unidentified military force.

One of the most notable aspects of “Tomorrow, When the War Began” is its strong connection to the Australian landscape and identity. Marsden vividly describes the Australian bush, highlighting its beauty and isolation. This connection to the land is essential to the story, as the teenagers use their knowledge of the terrain to evade the enemy. Additionally, the characters’ Australian identity and culture are central to the narrative, reflecting the idea that Australians are not immune to global conflicts, even in their remote corner of the world. The novel invites readers to consider what it means to be Australian and how that identity is shaped by the land and the events that unfold.

“Tomorrow, When the War Began” is often categorised as a coming-of-age novel. The story follows the characters as they transition from carefree adolescence to young adulthood in the most challenging circumstances imaginable. Their journey is a poignant exploration of how war forces them to grow, adapt, and make difficult decisions. This context is significant in the young adult literature genre, as it resonates with readers who are also navigating the complexities of adolescence, self-discovery, and the transition into adulthood.

The novel explores the impact of war on young people, a theme that is relevant in any historical context marked by conflict. The characters’ experiences mirror the real-life experiences of young people thrust into war zones throughout history. Their struggles with fear, loss, and the moral dilemmas they face raise questions about the effects of war on the mental and emotional well-being of youth. In a broader context, the book prompts readers to consider the consequences of armed conflict on the younger generation and the long-term trauma it can inflict.

“Tomorrow, When the War Began” has gained cultural significance in Australia and beyond. It has been widely read in schools and has sparked discussions about national identity, resilience, and the role of young people in times of crisis. The novel’s success led to the creation of a series, sequels, and even a film adaptation. Its enduring popularity suggests that its themes and messages continue to resonate with readers, making it a lasting part of contemporary Australian literature.

In conclusion, “Tomorrow, When the War Began” is a novel deeply rooted in its Australian context, exploring themes of identity, adolescence, the impact of war on youth, and cultural significance. Its enduring popularity and continued relevance make it a significant work in both young adult literature and Australian literary culture.


Chapter 1

The novel begins with the protagonist, Ellie Linton, reflecting on the idyllic setting of her hometown, Wirrawee, in rural Australia. She describes her close-knit group of friends, including Corrie, Kevin, Homer, Lee, Robyn, and Fiona, who are all about to graduate from high school. The group is excited about the upcoming school holidays, which they plan to spend camping in a remote area known as Hell.

Ellie introduces her family, including her parents and younger sister, and describes the relaxed and carefree atmosphere of their lives. She expresses her love for Wirrawee and her desire to stay there forever.

Chapter 2

The next day, Ellie and her friends prepare for their camping trip. Ellie’s best friend, Corrie, has borrowed her parents’ Land Rover for the journey. As they head into the wilderness, they encounter various challenges, including navigating rough terrain and fording a river.

Upon reaching Hell, the group sets up camp and enjoys the beautiful surroundings. They swim in a pristine waterhole, cook dinner over a campfire, and share stories. The group discusses their futures and their anxieties about life after graduation.

During the night, Ellie wakes up to the sound of aircraft flying overhead. She initially thinks it’s just military exercises, but when they return to their campsite the next day, they find their town, Wirrawee, eerily quiet. There are no signs of life, and their houses appear empty.

The group becomes increasingly alarmed as they make their way back to town. They find abandoned pets and evidence of chaos, such as crashed cars and damaged buildings. When they reach Ellie’s house, they discover that her family is missing, and the house has been ransacked.

In these early chapters, John Marsden establishes the serene and familiar setting of Wirrawee and introduces the close bonds of friendship among the main characters. However, this peaceful existence is abruptly shattered when the group returns from their camping trip to find their town deserted, setting the stage for the suspenseful and dramatic events that follow. The mystery of what has happened to their families and their town becomes the central driving force of the narrative, propelling the characters into a world of survival and conflict.

Chapter 3

In this chapter, Ellie, the story’s protagonist and narrator, describes how they initially tried to continue their camping trip after discovering the town was empty. They hoped that it might be some sort of joke or trick. However, as they approach their hometown of Wirrawee, they realise the seriousness of the situation. Everything seems eerily quiet, and there are no signs of life. They find abandoned cars and empty houses, which only deepens their sense of unease.

The group’s decision to investigate the town is fraught with tension. They come across a family’s home that has been ransacked. While they explore, they find evidence that suggests their families have been taken away forcibly. This discovery is a turning point for the group as it confirms their worst fears about the invasion. It’s clear that they are facing a dangerous enemy, and they must now figure out how to survive and rescue their families.

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 continues the group’s exploration of Wirrawee as they search for any signs of life and gather supplies. They decide to stay in a house belonging to the elderly Mrs. Alexander, who is nowhere to be found. While in the house, they find maps and begin to plan their next moves. Ellie reflects on the idyllic past summer, which now seems like a distant memory in the face of the harsh new reality.

The group starts to confront the challenges of their situation, such as food shortages, the need for self-defence, and their lack of information about the enemy. There is a growing sense of uncertainty and fear among them. However, they are also beginning to bond and develop a sense of camaraderie, with each member contributing their unique skills and strengths to the group.

These chapters set the stage for the central conflict of the story: the teenagers’ struggle to survive in a war-torn environment while attempting to rescue their families. The sense of foreboding and the uncertainty of their situation continue to build, drawing readers deeper into the narrative. Marsden skilfully portrays the group’s evolving dynamics and the challenges they face as they come to terms with the gravity of their circumstances.

Chapter 5

The chapter begins with Ellie and her friends discussing their situation and the need to gather more information about the enemy. They realise that they are not ready to confront the invaders directly but need to understand their strengths and weaknesses.

The group decides to split up temporarily to gather information. Ellie and Corrie will return to Ellie’s house to gather supplies and see if there’s any news on the radio. Meanwhile, Homer, Kevin, Fi, Robyn, and Lee will go to the showground to find out if the enemy has any significant presence there.

Ellie and Corrie successfully retrieve supplies from Ellie’s house but notice that the enemy is using her house as a base. This realisation is deeply unsettling for them.

Chapter 6

In this chapter, the focus shifts to Lee, one of Ellie’s friends. Lee is an Asian-Australian, and his thoughts and experiences add a unique perspective to the story. He reflects on the racial prejudice he has faced in Wirrawee and how he has learned to cope with it.

Lee and the group arrive at the showground and observe that the enemy has set up a base there as well. They see a helicopter and note that the invaders appear organised and well-equipped.

Lee’s skills as a strategist come into play as he discusses the need for a plan and emphasises the importance of intelligence gathering and careful observation.

The group watches as the invaders bring in trucks filled with prisoners from the town, including adults and children. This scene underscores the severity of the situation and the brutality of the enemy.

They also spot a helicopter pilot who seems to be somewhat independent from the rest of the soldiers, leading to speculations about potential weaknesses they can exploit.

Chapter 7

In this chapter, the group of teenagers is facing several challenges as they hide in the bush. They are dealing with hunger and exhaustion, and the stress of their situation is beginning to take a toll on their physical and emotional well-being. Ellie, the story’s narrator, reflects on the changes in her own character and those of her friends. They have all been forced to mature rapidly, and the hardships they are enduring are reshaping their identities.

The group discusses the need for a plan to rescue their families, but they realise they lack the necessary information and resources to carry out such a mission. Ellie also reflects on her growing feelings for her friend Homer, acknowledging the complexities of romantic relationships in the midst of a war.

As night falls, the teenagers remain vigilant, knowing that they must continue to hide and strategise if they are to have any chance of saving their loved ones.

Chapter 8

In Chapter 8, the group of teenagers begins to formulate a plan to gather information about the enemy and rescue their families. They decide to split up into smaller teams to gather intelligence, with Ellie and Homer taking on the task of infiltrating the Showground, a location where they believe the enemy may be stationed.

To gather supplies, the group decides to raid the homes of the invaders who have taken over their town. This decision is not made lightly, as it goes against their moral values, but they understand it’s a necessity for their survival and the rescue mission.

Ellie and Homer manage to enter the Showground under the cover of darkness, where they discover evidence of the enemy’s presence, including vehicles and equipment. This confirms their suspicions that the Showground is a key location for the invaders.

The chapter ends on a suspenseful note, with Ellie and Homer realising the gravity of the situation and the risks they are taking to gather information about the enemy. They are determined to uncover the truth and find a way to rescue their families, but they are also aware of the dangers that lie ahead.

Chapter 9

In this chapter, Robyn, one of the group’s members, takes on the role of a scout and ventures closer to the enemy’s camp to gather information. She is motivated by the desire to find out more about their captors and to potentially locate Corrie, who was taken prisoner by the invaders in the previous chapter.

Robyn’s expedition reveals several crucial pieces of information. She learns that the enemy is using the showground as a base of operations, with trucks and military equipment stationed there. This discovery confirms that the invaders are well-organised and possess significant resources. She also notices a helicopter, further emphasising the enemy’s military capabilities.

However, Robyn’s reconnaissance mission takes a dangerous turn when she is nearly discovered by an enemy soldier. She narrowly escapes and returns to the group with her valuable findings. Her bravery and resourcefulness are evident, but the group becomes increasingly aware of the risks they face.

Chapter 10

In this chapter, Lee takes the initiative to find Corrie, who was captured by the enemy in the previous chapter. He believes that rescuing her is a priority, and he enlists Ellie’s help for the mission. The two set out on bicycles to reach the showground, where they believe Corrie is being held.

As they approach the showground, Lee and Ellie encounter a group of enemy soldiers patrolling the area. They are forced to hide and observe, realising the sheer number of enemy forces present. This revelation underscores the danger they are in and the difficulty of their mission.

Lee and Ellie manage to locate Corrie but realise that she is in a precarious situation, with enemy soldiers guarding her. They decide that it’s too risky to attempt a rescue at that moment and instead return to their hideout to regroup and plan a more strategic approach.

Chapter 11

In Chapter 11, the group of seven teenagers, led by Ellie Linton, continues to grapple with their situation in the midst of the war. They are still hiding out in Hell, their makeshift camp in the hills surrounding Wirrawee. As they observe the town from a distance, they notice that the enemy soldiers have set up a base at the showground, which further reinforces the gravity of the situation.

The group discusses their next steps and realises that they need more information about the enemy’s movements and plans. Ellie proposes a reconnaissance mission to gather intelligence, and everyone agrees. This decision marks a significant turning point in the story, as the teenagers begin to take an active role in the resistance against the invading forces.

Chapter 12

In Chapter 12, Ellie and her friends set out on their reconnaissance mission. They choose to investigate the airfield, which they believe is a key location for the enemy. On the way, they encounter a group of wild dogs, which adds tension to their journey.

When they reach the airfield, they make several startling discoveries. First, they see that the enemy has set up an aircraft maintenance area, suggesting that they plan to stay for an extended period. Second, they spot planes with enemy markings, indicating that the invading force is well-equipped. Lastly, they witness a confrontation between two soldiers, one of whom is much more brutal and aggressive than the other, hinting at tensions within the enemy ranks.

As they leave the airfield, Ellie and her friends realise that they are now actively engaged in a dangerous battle for their town and their families. They understand that their reconnaissance mission has provided crucial information that could aid in the resistance against the invaders.

Chapter 13

In this chapter, Ellie and her friends continue their efforts to resist the enemy forces occupying their town of Wirrawee. They recognise the need for more strategic actions, and Ellie, as the narrator, discusses the group’s collective decision-making process. The group begins planning traps to delay or disrupt the enemy’s movements. They decide to target the narrow road leading to their homes, a key route for the invaders.

Ellie describes their careful planning, which includes constructing a trench, setting up a tripwire, and positioning a large tree trunk as a potential blockade. The teens demonstrate their resourcefulness and determination to fight back against the invaders, despite their limited resources and training.

There’s also a sense of tension and fear among the group, as they understand the risks involved in their actions. They are stepping into dangerous territory, facing the enemy head-on. Ellie reflects on the changes they’ve undergone, both in their capabilities and mindset, since the invasion began.

Chapter 14

In this chapter, Ellie and her friends execute their plan to ambush the enemy soldiers on the road. They meticulously set up their traps and wait anxiously for the enemy’s approach. The tension is palpable as they know that this operation could put their lives at risk.

As the enemy convoy approaches, the group initiates their plan. Explosions and chaos ensue as the traps are triggered. Ellie and her friends are momentarily victorious as the enemy’s vehicles are disabled, and soldiers scramble in confusion. However, amidst the chaos, a firefight erupts, and the group realises that they are not the only ones capable of violence.

This chapter delves into the grim reality of warfare, highlighting the brutal and unpredictable nature of combat. Ellie and her friends are confronted with the consequences of their actions, as they not only disable the enemy but also take their first lives. The group must grapple with the emotional toll of their actions and the knowledge that they have crossed a threshold into a new, more dangerous phase of their resistance.

Chapter 15

In this chapter, Ellie and her friends are determined to hit back at the enemy after discovering the existence of an airfield in their vicinity. They believe that if they can destroy the runway, it will disrupt the enemy’s operations in the area. Ellie is chosen to be part of the group that carries out the mission, which also includes Homer, Fi, and Lee.

The group begins planning the attack, which they code-named “Operation Blowtorch.” They carefully discuss their strategy and preparations, demonstrating their resourcefulness and commitment to fighting back. Ellie, who is narrating the story, is conflicted about the potential violence they will have to engage in, but she recognises the necessity of their actions to protect their town and families.

As the chapter unfolds, it becomes clear that the group is not just a bunch of scared teenagers anymore; they are developing into a capable guerrilla force. They are taking matters into their own hands, driven by the desire to defend their home and loved ones.

Chapter 16

In this chapter, Ellie and her friends put their plan into action. They sneak through the bush and approach the enemy’s airfield under the cover of darkness. Ellie describes the tension and fear they experience as they get closer to their target.

They successfully infiltrate the airfield, but their mission doesn’t go as smoothly as they had hoped. While attempting to set fire to the fuel tankers, they encounter enemy soldiers who are guarding the area. A chaotic and violent confrontation ensues, and the group is forced to use their weapons for the first time. Ellie shoots a soldier in self-defence, marking a significant moment of moral ambiguity and personal growth for her character.

Despite the unexpected obstacles and violence, the group manages to create a significant explosion by igniting one of the fuel tankers. This explosion damages the runway and disrupts the enemy’s operations, fulfilling their mission objective.

As the group retreats through the bush, they reflect on the events of the night. They are shaken by the violence they have experienced and inflicted, but they also understand that they are now actively engaged in a war for their homeland.

These chapters serve to further develop the characters’ transformation from ordinary teenagers into skilled guerrilla fighters. They highlight the moral dilemmas they face, the risks they take, and the sense of responsibility they feel for their town and families. The action and tension in these chapters drive the plot forward, illustrating the group’s determination to resist the enemy occupation at any cost.

Chapter 17

In Chapter 17, the group of seven teenagers is facing increased pressure and danger. They’ve been living in the bush, trying to avoid enemy patrols, but it’s becoming increasingly challenging. Their supplies are running low, and they’re feeling the physical and emotional toll of their situation.

Homer, the group’s leader, decides that they need to gather more information about the enemy’s activities. Ellie and Fiona volunteer to infiltrate the showground, which is now being used as a makeshift prison camp by the invaders. They hope to find out more about their families and friends who are held there. The tension is high as Ellie and Fiona prepare for this dangerous mission.

Chapter 18

In Chapter 18, Ellie and Fiona sneak into the showground under the cover of darkness. They witness the harsh conditions in which the prisoners are being held, with inadequate food and sanitation. The enemy soldiers are cruel and abusive, treating the prisoners with contempt.

Ellie and Fiona manage to find Kevin, one of their friends, who is injured but alive. This provides a glimmer of hope amidst the despair. However, they also discover that Robyn, another member of their group, has been killed. This devastating loss hits them hard.

As Ellie and Fiona leave the showground, they are spotted by an enemy soldier. A chase ensues, and they narrowly escape, but their mission has provided them with valuable information about the enemy’s operations and the conditions of their captured loved ones.

These chapters intensify the emotional and physical challenges faced by the group of teenagers. They showcase the harsh reality of war and the sacrifices the characters are willing to make for the sake of their friends and family. The loss of Robyn underscores the high stakes of their struggle, while the information they gather sets the stage for further actions against the invaders.

Chapter 19

In Chapter 19, Ellie and her friends continue to gather information about the enemy’s activities in Wirrawee. They decide to undertake a reconnaissance mission to get a closer look at the Showground, where the invaders have set up a base. Ellie, Homer, Lee, and Kevin plan and execute the mission with meticulous care. They use a tractor for cover and disguise themselves in civilian clothes to avoid suspicion. During their reconnaissance, they observe several enemy soldiers, including a large, intimidating officer.

While watching the enemy, the group realises that they need more information about the officer and the Showground. They decide to undertake another mission soon, this time with Ellie and Fiona in disguise as nurses to enter the local hospital and gather information from wounded soldiers. The chapter ends with the group feeling a mix of fear and determination as they prepare for their next mission.

Chapter 20

Chapter 20 begins with Ellie and her friends executing their plan to enter the hospital as fake nurses. They manage to bluff their way past a guard and into the hospital. Inside, they encounter wounded soldiers, some of whom are seriously injured. They make their way to the officer’s room, but as they are about to enter, they encounter a nurse who seems suspicious of them. Ellie and Fiona are forced to abort their mission and leave the hospital, but not before overhearing a conversation that hints at the enemy’s sinister intentions.

Outside the hospital, Ellie and Fiona rejoin their friends. They share the information they gathered about the officer, Major Harvey, who is rumoured to be ruthless and cruel. Ellie and her friends are now more convinced than ever that they are up against a formidable enemy. Despite the setbacks, they resolve to continue their efforts to resist the invaders and gather intelligence.

In these chapters, the tension and danger intensify as Ellie and her friends embark on risky missions to gather information about the enemy. They are faced with the harsh realities of war and the challenges of maintaining their cover. Major Harvey’s presence adds an element of mystery and danger to the story, raising the stakes for the group as they strive to uncover the enemy’s plans. These chapters showcase the characters’ courage and determination in the face of adversity, setting the stage for the escalating conflict and suspense that will drive the rest of the novel.

Chapter 21

In this chapter, Ellie and her friends are struggling with the reality of their situation. They are now fully engaged in their guerrilla war against the invading enemy forces. They’ve just successfully bombed a bridge, disrupting the enemy’s supply route. While this action marks a small victory, they are also aware of the risks and the escalating violence of their situation.

Amidst the tension, Ellie reflects on the changes in her own character and the transformation of her friends. They are no longer the carefree teenagers they once were; they have become soldiers in a war they never asked for. Ellie’s inner turmoil is evident as she grapples with her responsibilities as a leader and the fear that they are becoming just as ruthless as the enemy they are fighting.

The chapter also delves into the dynamics between the group members. Fi and Homer are growing closer, while tensions between Ellie and Lee are escalating due to their romantic entanglement. These personal conflicts add another layer of complexity to their already stressful situation.

Chapter 22

In Chapter 22, the group decides to spend a night away from their hideout to escape the constant stress of their situation. They head to a nearby reservoir, where they can relax and regain a sense of normalcy, even if only temporarily. The group’s banter and laughter provide a stark contrast to the seriousness of their mission, highlighting the resilience of youth and their ability to find moments of joy amidst chaos.

As they gaze at the stars on a clear night, Ellie reflects on the vastness of the universe and their small place within it. This moment of reflection offers a brief respite from the relentless tension of their daily lives.

However, their tranquility is short-lived as they spot enemy helicopters in the distance. Realising that their hideout may have been discovered, they rush back, anxious about what they might find.

These chapters continue to emphasise the coming-of-age theme as the characters grapple with their changing identities and the harsh realities of war. They also highlight the toll that their actions are taking on their mental and emotional well-being, as well as the strain it places on their friendships. The juxtaposition of moments of normalcy with the constant threat of danger creates a sense of tension and anticipation that drives the narrative forward.


In the epilogue of “Tomorrow, When the War Began” by John Marsden, the story’s protagonist, Ellie Linton, reflects on the events that have transpired since the group of teenagers returned to their hometown of Wirrawee after their guerrilla warfare efforts against the invading forces. The epilogue offers closure to the story and provides insight into the long-term effects of the war on the characters. Here is an in-depth summary of the epilogue:

The epilogue begins with Ellie and her friends returning to Wirrawee after months of living in hiding. They had successfully mounted several attacks against the invading forces, causing considerable damage and disruption. However, they eventually decided to disband and return to their homes as they realized they couldn’t sustain the resistance effort indefinitely.

Ellie describes the complex emotions she and her friends experience upon returning. While they are relieved to be back in their town, they are also haunted by the memories of the war and the loss of their friends and loved ones. They carry the scars, both physical and emotional, of their experiences.

Ellie reflects on the losses they endured during the conflict. Some of their group members did not survive, and the epilogue reveals the lasting impact of these deaths on the survivors. This highlights the harsh reality of war and its toll on individuals and communities.

The epilogue explores how the war has changed the relationships among the characters. Some have grown closer, while others have grown apart. Ellie herself acknowledges that she has changed and is unsure of her future. This evolution of relationships reflects the transformative nature of their experiences.

Ellie mentions the uncertainty that still lingers in Wirrawee. The invading forces have not been completely defeated, and the town is still occupied. There are many unanswered questions about the future, and the characters must navigate this uncertainty as they try to rebuild their lives.

Despite the challenges and losses, the epilogue also conveys a sense of resilience and hope. The characters are determined to continue their fight and not give in to despair. They have learned valuable lessons about themselves and their capabilities, and they carry these lessons forward into an uncertain future.

The epilogue serves as a poignant conclusion to the novel, allowing readers to see how the characters have been affected by their experiences and offering a sense of closure to the story. It reinforces the novel’s themes of courage, resilience, and the enduring impact of war on individuals and communities.

In summary, the epilogue of “Tomorrow, When the War Began” provides a reflective and emotional conclusion to the story. It explores the characters’ mixed emotions, the lingering effects of war, changed relationships, and the uncertainty of the future. Through Ellie’s perspective, readers gain insight into the enduring resilience and hope that persist in the face of adversity.


War and its consequences

The theme of war and its consequences is a central and deeply impactful element in “Tomorrow, When the War Began” by John Marsden. Through the experiences of a group of Australian teenagers who find themselves thrust into a guerrilla resistance effort against an invading military force, the novel explores the profound effects of war on individuals and society.

Firstly, the novel vividly portrays the immediate consequences of war. The invasion of Wirrawee, the fictional Australian town where the story is set, shatters the sense of safety and normalcy that the characters once knew. Their homes are occupied, their families are taken hostage, and the town itself is transformed into a military base. This sudden upheaval serves as a stark reminder of how war can disrupt and destabilise even the most peaceful communities. It emphasises the chaos and uncertainty that accompany conflict.

Furthermore, the theme of war and its consequences is manifested through the characters’ experiences of violence and loss. The teenagers are forced to engage in acts of guerrilla warfare to resist the invading forces, and they witness the destruction and loss of life that war brings. This exposure to violence and death has a profound impact on their emotional well-being. They grapple with grief, guilt, and trauma as they are confronted with the harsh realities of taking lives and seeing loved ones harmed or killed. This theme highlights the toll that war exacts on individuals, both physically and mentally.

Additionally, the novel explores the long-term consequences of war on the characters’ lives. As the story progresses, the teenagers are irrevocably changed by their experiences. They evolve from carefree adolescents into battle-hardened survivors who must confront moral dilemmas and make life-altering decisions. The war forces them to grow up quickly, and they lose their innocence along the way. This theme underscores the idea that war not only affects individuals during the conflict but also shapes the trajectory of their futures.

Moreover, the theme of war and its consequences extends to the broader societal impact. The invading forces represent a threat to not only the characters’ town but also to their entire nation. The story raises questions about the vulnerability of a country during war and the importance of resilience and resistance in the face of occupation. It highlights the need for communities to come together and defend their way of life when faced with external threats.

In conclusion, the theme of war and its consequences in “Tomorrow, When the War Began” is a powerful exploration of the immediate and enduring effects of conflict. It portrays the disruption of normalcy, the emotional toll on individuals, the long-term changes in character, and the collective need for resilience in the face of war. Through the experiences of the young protagonists, the novel provides a thought-provoking examination of the multifaceted impact of war on both a personal and societal level.

Coming of age

The coming of age theme in “Tomorrow, When the War Began” is central to the narrative, as it traces the transformation of the teenage protagonists from carefree adolescents to responsible young adults in the crucible of war. This theme is explored in depth through their experiences, choices, and personal growth.

Firstly, the novel depicts the characters’ initial naivety and innocence at the beginning of their camping trip. They are typical teenagers, more concerned with relationships, school, and social activities than with the world’s harsher realities. However, as the invading forces take control of their town, they are thrust into a new, unforgiving reality.

The characters are quickly forced to make adult decisions. They must learn survival skills, engage in acts of resistance, and confront the moral complexities of war. Ellie, the story’s protagonist, exemplifies this transformation. Her narrative voice evolves from that of a typical teenager into that of a young leader and strategist. She takes on responsibilities, makes difficult decisions, and shoulders the weight of leadership as she guides her friends through dangerous situations.

Moreover, the theme of coming of age is also evident in the characters’ relationships. As they face danger together and rely on each other for support and protection, their bonds deepen. Friendships evolve into profound connections, and romantic relationships take on a more mature and serious tone. The characters learn to trust and depend on each other in ways they never had to before, reinforcing the idea that adversity accelerates their transition into adulthood.

The loss of innocence is a key element of the coming of age theme. The characters witness violence, death, and destruction, which shatters their youthful illusions of invincibility. They are forced to acknowledge the darker aspects of the world and grapple with the consequences of their actions. This loss of innocence is symbolised by their first kill, which is a turning point in the novel. It marks the moment when they fully grasp the gravity of their situation and the irreversible change they’ve undergone.

In conclusion, the coming of age theme in “Tomorrow, When the War Began” is a powerful exploration of the characters’ transition from adolescence to adulthood in the midst of a war. Their growth, both individually and in their relationships, is a central aspect of the story. The novel portrays how young people can rise to the challenges presented by extreme circumstances, ultimately emerging as more resilient, mature, and self-aware individuals.

Resilience and Survival

The theme of resilience and survival is at the core of “Tomorrow, When the War Began” by John Marsden, driving the characters to adapt, overcome, and thrive in the face of overwhelming adversity. This theme is explored in depth throughout the novel.

The characters in the story are initially unprepared for the sudden invasion of their town, Wirrawee. However, their ability to adapt quickly becomes evident as they face the immediate crisis. They scavenge for food, set up camps in the wilderness, and develop survival skills, all while being pursued by the enemy. This adaptation to their new circumstances illustrates the human capacity to respond resourcefully and creatively in times of crisis, a central aspect of resilience.

The teenagers in the novel display remarkable resourcefulness and ingenuity in their struggle to survive. They construct hidden camps, develop improvised weapons, and devise strategies to outsmart the invading forces. Their ability to make the most of limited resources and think on their feet is a testament to their resilience. This theme underscores the idea that resilience often arises from the ability to adapt and use one’s wits effectively.

The characters’ survival also hinges on their unity as a group. They rely on each other for emotional support, protection, and shared knowledge. Their unwavering loyalty and trust in one another reinforce the theme of resilience. It highlights how the bonds of friendship and community can be a source of strength in times of crisis.

The theme of resilience extends beyond physical survival. The characters are not only confronted with external threats but also with moral and emotional challenges. They must make difficult decisions, including acts of violence, to protect themselves and their town. Their ability to cope with the emotional toll of these choices and continue fighting reflects their inner resilience.

Throughout the novel, the characters undergo significant personal growth and transformation. They evolve from carefree adolescents into responsible, capable young adults who have been tested by the harshest of circumstances. This transformation illustrates that resilience is not just about survival but also about personal development and maturity.

Ultimately, the theme of resilience and survival in “Tomorrow, When the War Began” underscores the indomitable nature of the human spirit. It portrays the characters’ determination to preserve their way of life and their refusal to succumb to despair, even in the face of an occupying military force. This theme serves as an inspiring message about the strength and resilience of the human spirit when confronted with the most challenging of circumstances.

In conclusion, “Tomorrow, When the War Began” masterfully explores the theme of resilience and survival through the characters’ adaptability, resourcefulness, unity, moral and emotional struggles, personal growth, and unwavering determination. It is a testament to the enduring capacity of individuals to confront and overcome adversity, even in the most dire circumstances.


The theme of love in “Tomorrow, When the War Began” by John Marsden is woven into the narrative, and it takes various forms throughout the novel. Here are in-depth analysis paragraphs exploring the theme of love in the story:

  1. Friendship as Unconditional Love: One of the most prominent forms of love in the novel is the deep friendship and camaraderie among the group of teenagers. Their unwavering loyalty and support for each other, even in the face of extreme danger, exemplify the idea of friendship as a form of unconditional love. As the group navigates the challenges of warfare and survival, they prioritise each other’s safety and well-being above all else. This kind of love underscores the strength of their bonds and their determination to protect their friends at any cost. It also highlights the notion that love can extend beyond family and romantic relationships to encompass the profound connections formed through shared experiences and hardships.
  2. Romantic Love Amidst Chaos: Amidst the chaos and uncertainty of war, the characters also grapple with romantic love. Ellie, the story’s protagonist, experiences a budding romance with Lee, one of her closest friends. Their love story is characterised by the intensity and urgency that come with wartime, as they find solace and support in each other’s arms. Their relationship serves as a poignant reminder that love can bloom even in the most unlikely circumstances and that it can provide a source of strength and comfort during times of crisis. It reflects the idea that love can endure and flourish even in the darkest of times.
  3. Family Love and Loss: The theme of family love is also present in the novel, particularly in the moments when characters reflect on their families and the uncertainty surrounding their fates. The invasion of their town forces the teenagers to confront the possibility of losing their families, and the fear and love they have for their parents and siblings are deeply intertwined. The characters’ determination to fight back against the invaders is, in part, driven by their love for their families and their desire to protect them. The novel poignantly illustrates the profound impact of familial love and the pain of potential loss.
  4. Self-Love and Identity: Another dimension of love in the story is the characters’ evolving sense of self-love and self-identity. As they face harrowing challenges and engage in acts of resistance, they come to understand their own strengths, capabilities, and the importance of valuing themselves. This self-love is a form of empowerment that allows them to grow and adapt in the face of adversity. It demonstrates that love is not only directed outward but also inward, as individuals learn to love and appreciate themselves for who they are and what they can become.

In conclusion, “Tomorrow, When the War Began” explores the theme of love in its various forms, from deep friendships to romantic relationships, familial bonds, and self-love. These manifestations of love provide emotional depth to the story and demonstrate how love can be a source of strength, resilience, and connection in the midst of war and chaos. The characters’ experiences with love serve as a powerful reminder of the enduring capacity of the human heart to find and nurture love, even in the most challenging circumstances.

Love and Morality

The theme of identity and morality is central to “Tomorrow, When the War Began” by John Marsden. This theme is explored in depth as the characters grapple with their own values, ethics, and self-identity in the midst of a violent and morally ambiguous conflict.

Throughout the novel, the characters are thrust into a situation where their identities are tested and reshaped. Prior to the war, they were typical Australian teenagers, concerned with school, relationships, and personal goals. However, the invasion forces them to question who they are and what they stand for. Ellie, the protagonist, experiences a significant shift in her identity as she transforms from a carefree high school student to a resourceful leader and strategist. This transformation illustrates how external pressures can reshape one’s sense of self.

The invasion forces the characters to confront a series of moral dilemmas. They are compelled to engage in guerrilla warfare and acts of violence to defend their town and loved ones. These actions challenge their preconceived notions of right and wrong. The characters grapple with the ethical implications of their decisions, particularly the decision to take human lives in the name of resistance. This internal conflict reflects the theme of morality as they weigh the consequences of their actions against their sense of duty and survival.

The characters’ ethical evolution is evident as they adapt to the exigencies of war. Initially, they are hesitant and conflicted about engaging in violence, but as the conflict intensifies, they become more proficient and hardened in their actions. This evolution highlights the fluid nature of morality in extreme circumstances and raises questions about how one’s moral compass can change in the face of life-and-death situations. It also prompts readers to consider the blurred lines between heroism and vigilantism.

Within the group, there is ongoing debate and discussion about the morality of their actions. Different characters have varying perspectives on what is morally acceptable, and these discussions underscore the complexity of ethical decision-making in times of crisis. The group’s ability to reach a consensus on their actions while preserving their bonds of friendship reflects the theme of moral solidarity in the face of adversity.

As the story progresses, the characters increasingly reflect on the consequences of their actions. They grapple with guilt, remorse, and the weight of the lives they have taken. This introspection adds depth to their characters and highlights the theme of moral accountability. It also reinforces the idea that one’s identity is intricately tied to the ethical choices one makes.

In conclusion, the theme of identity and morality in “Tomorrow, When the War Began” is a complex and thought-provoking exploration of how individuals’ sense of self and their ethical principles are challenged and reshaped in the crucible of war. The characters’ moral dilemmas, ethical evolution, group dynamics, and reflections on consequences make this theme a central and compelling aspect of the novel’s narrative.


Fear serves as a powerful catalyst for change and growth among the characters. At the outset of the story, they are typical teenagers, largely preoccupied with their personal lives and concerns. However, the invasion abruptly shatters their sense of security. Ellie, the story’s narrator, initially experiences a paralysing fear that leaves her feeling helpless. However, as the group begins their guerrilla warfare efforts against the invaders, they are forced to confront and overcome their fears. Fear becomes the driving force behind their determination to protect their town and loved ones. This transformation illustrates the transformative power of fear, turning ordinary teenagers into courageous fighters.

A significant aspect of the characters’ fear is the fear of the unknown. When they return from their camping trip to find their town deserted and occupied by an unidentified military force, they are thrust into a world of uncertainty. This fear of the unknown is exacerbated by the absence of information, communication, and understanding about the invaders. The characters grapple with questions about the invaders’ intentions, capabilities, and the fate of their families. This fear of the unknown amplifies their anxiety and contributes to the tense atmosphere of the novel.

Throughout the story, the characters also grapple with the fear of loss. They witness the devastating impact of the invasion on their town, including the capture and mistreatment of their friends and family members. This fear of losing loved ones is a constant source of anguish and motivation for the characters. It forces them to take risks and make sacrifices to protect those they care about. The fear of loss also highlights the emotional toll of war and the characters’ vulnerability.

As the characters engage in acts of guerrilla resistance against the invaders, they confront a different type of fear — the fear of moral compromise. They must make difficult decisions, including acts of violence, sabotage, and deception, which challenge their ethical principles. The fear of becoming like the enemy, of losing their moral compass in the midst of conflict, is a recurring theme. Ellie, in particular, grapples with this fear as she narrates the story, questioning the rightness of their actions.

The characters’ journey is also a narrative of overcoming fear. As they face their fears head-on and adapt to their new roles as resistance fighters, they gradually become more adept at managing their fears. The camaraderie and support within the group play a significant role in helping them confront and conquer their anxieties. This progression underscores the theme that courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to act despite it.

In summary, the theme of fear in “Tomorrow, When the War Began” is a multi-faceted exploration of the emotional and psychological impact of war and adversity on the characters. It serves as a driving force for character development, motivates their actions, and adds layers of complexity to the narrative, making it a central theme that resonates throughout the story.

The Natural World

The Australian bush, with its rugged terrain, dense forests, and wild rivers, is depicted as a character in its own right throughout the novel. The natural world is not merely a backdrop but an active participant in the story. The characters have a deep connection to the land, and it plays a vital role in their survival. Its portrayal is rich and evocative, emphasising its beauty, isolation, and the sense of both danger and sanctuary it provides. This portrayal reflects the quintessential Australian identity tied to the land and highlights the unique challenges and opportunities it presents to the characters.

The natural world becomes a critical resource for the characters as they navigate the challenges of guerrilla warfare and evasion. They rely on their knowledge of the environment to find food, water, and shelter. This dependence on the natural world underscores the theme of survival and resourcefulness. It demonstrates how the characters’ connection to the land becomes a lifeline in times of crisis, teaching them to adapt and utilise their surroundings effectively.

The Australian landscape also serves as a place of escape and solace for the characters. In a world turned upside down by war, the bush provides a sanctuary where they can briefly forget their worries and find moments of peace and tranquility. These moments of respite amidst the natural world highlight the characters’ need for mental and emotional recuperation and reflect the idea that nature can offer solace in troubled times.

The natural world in “Tomorrow, When the War Began” takes on symbolic significance. It represents freedom and the characters’ fight to preserve their way of life. As they engage in guerrilla warfare against the invaders, the bush becomes both a battlefield and a refuge, symbolising the struggle for autonomy and the resilience of the Australian spirit. It becomes a symbol of defiance and resistance, emphasising the power of nature to inspire and empower.

The natural world also reflects the loss of innocence experienced by the characters. The peaceful and familiar landscapes they once cherished are transformed into sites of danger and conflict.


Here are some key quotes from “Tomorrow, When the War Began” by John Marsden:

  1. Quote: “Hell isn’t just paved with good intentions; it’s walled and roofed with them.”Analysis: Ellie, the narrator, reflects on the unintended consequences of their camping trip, which leads to their town being invaded. This quote underscores the theme of unintended consequences and the idea that actions, even those with good intentions, can have far-reaching and unexpected results. It serves as a foreshadowing of the challenges the characters will face.Chapter: This quote appears in Chapter 1, setting the tone for the rest of the novel.
  2. Quote: “If I had known that you were going to die in our arms I would have held you even harder, squeezed every drop of blood from your body into mine.”Analysis: Ellie expresses the deep sorrow and regret she feels over the death of one of their group members, Chris. This quote highlights the theme of loss and grief and the profound impact that war has on the characters. It reflects the emotional toll of their experiences and the sense of powerlessness they sometimes feel.Chapter: This quote is from Chapter 11, where the characters grapple with the loss of Chris.
  3. Quote: “We had to become killers, become ruthless, become cunning and heartless and hateful, just like them.”Analysis: Ellie reflects on the moral dilemmas the group faces as they engage in guerrilla warfare against the invading forces. This quote underscores the theme of identity and morality, as the characters are forced to make difficult choices and grapple with their own sense of right and wrong. It also highlights the theme of transformation, as they are changed by the brutality of war.Chapter: This quote is from Chapter 15, as the characters confront the harsh realities of their actions.
  4. Quote: “But how do you go on living when in your heart you begin to understand… there is no going back? There are some things that can never be made right.”Analysis: Ellie contemplates the irrevocable changes that have occurred in their lives due to the war. This quote emphasises the theme of irreversible consequences and the idea that certain experiences can forever alter a person. It reflects the characters’ struggle to come to terms with the traumatic events they’ve witnessed and participated in.Chapter: This quote is from Chapter 20, as the characters grapple with the aftermath of their actions.
  5. Quote: “It was a reminder that the world could be beautiful too, that no matter how awful and unfair things got, there was still a reason to be glad.”Analysis: Ellie finds solace in the beauty of the natural world, highlighting the theme of the Australian landscape as a source of inspiration and comfort. It also reflects the theme of resilience and the characters’ ability to find moments of hope and joy amidst the chaos and hardship of war.Chapter: This quote is from Chapter 21, as the characters seek moments of respite in nature.

These key quotes from “Tomorrow, When the War Began” provide insight into the novel’s central themes, including unintended consequences, loss and grief, identity and morality, irreversible change, and the power of nature as a source of solace. They capture the emotional depth and complexity of the characters’ experiences as they navigate the challenges of war and survival.

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