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The Destructors

Sep 14, 2017 in Literature

The Destructors is a short story written by Graham Greene. The story is set in post-war London nine years after World War II had ended. The story is about a group of teenage boys who belong to the Wormsley Common Gang. The gang decides to destroy a house owned by Mr. Thomas (the Wormsley Common Gang call him Old Misery). Mr. Thomas’ house remained in a good condition even after everything was ruined in London after the War. The gang decides to demolish the house on a Boxing Day after Mr. Thomas leaves on a trip. The boys proceeded with their plan to demolish the house. When they find Mr. Thomas’ stash of money, the boys decide to burn them instead of bringing them home. On the second day, Mr. Thomas returns home early to find his house ruined. The boys lock Mr. Thomas up in the old man’s outhouse. On the third day, Mr. Thomas’ house is completely demolished when an unsuspecting man drives his truck, which the boys attached to a part of the house. The man discovers and frees Mr. Thomas. Although the man feels sorry for Mr. Thomas, he laughs at Old Misery’s misfortune.

On the surface, The Destructors appears to be a story that evokes the readers’ sense of adventure and creates suspenseful experience along the way. Nevertheless, a closer look at Greene’s short story reveals the underlying themes linked to war, delinquency, and human nature. The setting of the story alone illustrates the short story’s link to war. The Destructors is set in London nine years after the war. The imagery in the story illustrates the devastating impact of war on London. The crumbling buildings and ruins all over London in the story illustrate the physical outcomes of war – the utter destruction and paralysis of a highly functioning community (Byles, 2005). The story reveals some causes of war such as fear and envy, and sometimes even pure recklessness or delinquency. In the story, the Wormsley Common Gang decides to demolish Mr. Thomas’ house with a solid and stable foundation. The gang’s behavior towards the house shows that sometimes the war begins due to other people’s fear of solid and stable communities. Some people see solid, stable, and highly functioning communities as threatening, therefore, instead of learning from these communities, other people decide to destroy them by provoking a war. In other cases, war is caused by pure delinquency and when people cannot overcome the wrongful desire to destroy and to dominate.

Similarly, the reasons behind the Wormsley Common Gang’s demolition of Mr. Thomas’ house illustrate human nature in terms of delinquency. One of the consequences of war is the chaos in society. Without a proper system of governance, the boys are neglected as they are left with no direction at all. The boys meet to do nonsensical things instead of productive ones. This aspect of the story proves that without proper guidance and direction, children would more likely commit delinquent acts. The behavior of the man in the end also illustrates one aspect of the human nature. Instead of helping Mr. Thomas after seeing him locked up at the outhouse, the man laughed at him because of what happened to his house. The man’s behavior illustrates an atrocious behavior known as schadenfreude, which describes the pleasure that a human being feels because of another individual’s misfortune. 

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