The Destructors

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Sounds of Destruction Symbol Analysis

Sounds of Destruction Symbol Icon

Sounds of destruction in the story symbolize awareness and ability to adapt. Throughout the text, hearing and understanding the meaning of the sounds of destruction signifies a character’s ability to move forward from that destruction and to create and master the new world that will replace the old. Blackie’s claim to have heard the bombs destroy the houses that had stood in the lot before the Blitz is his way of showing that he has understood and helped create the world in which he lives (even if he couldn’t possibly remember having heard the bombs because he was just a baby). On the other hand, Mr. Thomas’s inability to correctly interpret the sounds he hears while he is locked in the lavatory – he thinks the sounds of his house being destroyed sounds like carpenter’s building something – symbolizes his inability to grapple with the world as it is, to let go of what has been lost and to build something new in its place.

Sounds of Destruction Quotes in The Destructors

The The Destructors quotes below all refer to the symbol of Sounds of Destruction. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Class and a Changing World Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of The Destructors published in 1993.
Part 3 Quotes

After a while it seemed to him that there were sounds in the silence – they were faint and came from the direction of his house. He stood up and peered through the ventilation-hole – between the cracks in one of the shutters he saw a light, not the light of a lamp, but the wavering light that a candle might give. Then he thought he heard the sound of hammering and scraping and chipping. He thought of burglars - perhaps they had employed the boy as a scout, but why should burglars engage in what sounded more and more like a stealthy form of carpentry?

Related Characters: Mr. Thomas, or “Old Misery”
Related Symbols: Mr. Thomas’s Lavatory, Sounds of Destruction
Page Number: 20-21
Explanation and Analysis:

Mr. Thomas’s out-of-date expectations for how people will act and how the world works have given the boys the means to trick and trap him in his outdoor lavatory. Now he is listening to the sounds coming from inside his house and trying to understand their significance. His professional background as a builder prepared him to hear the noises tools produce and interpret those noises are the sounds of something being created, never considering that they could also be used to destroy. This failure of the imagination is the result of his proud dedication to the traditional. He has no conception of why anyone might want to destroy a house, because he doesn’t share the deep resentment harbored among many in England towards the symbols of the past.

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Part 4 Quotes

'I'm sorry,' the driver said, making heroic efforts, but when he remembered the sudden check of his lorry, the crash of bricks falling, he became convulsed again. One moment the house had stood there with such dignity between the bomb-sites like a man in a top hat, and then, bang, crash, there wasn't anything left - not anything. He said, 'I'm sorry. I can't help it. Mr. Thomas. There's nothing personal, but you got to admit it's funny.'

Related Characters: The lorry driver (speaker), Mr. Thomas, or “Old Misery”
Related Symbols: Top Hat, Sounds of Destruction
Page Number: 22-23
Explanation and Analysis:

The driver has just freed Mr. Thomas from the lavatory, and now Mr. Thomas is seeing what has become of his house for the first time. Mr. Thomas is furious that the driver is laughing at his misfortune. When the driver says his laughter “isn’t personal,” that suggests that, like T., he does not hate Mr. Thomas or want to be cruel to him. Instead, the symbolic power of the house is so strong that the thrill of seeing it destroyed is enough to make both T. and the lorry driver forget that this destruction will have grave consequences for Mr. Thomas.

The lorry driver’s laughter also shows that the idea to destroy the house does not only hold appeal for rebellious adolescents. As the comparison to a man in a top hat illustrates, the house is a symbol of the rigid and now obsolete class structure of England’s past. For the lorry driver, who comes from the lower class, this house’s destruction represents a process going on throughout post-war British society. The relationship between different British classes is being transformed, and British society is becoming more egalitarian. But before this new world can be created, the old one symbolized by houses like Mr. Thomas’s must be destroyed. In a sense, the lorry driver is part of an entire society that is going through a kind of adolescence.

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Sounds of Destruction Symbol Timeline in The Destructors

The timeline below shows where the symbol Sounds of Destruction appears in The Destructors. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Destruction and Creation Theme Icon
...narrated in the story is a boy named Blackie, who claims to have heard the sound of destruction when the bombs fall even though he would have been too young to... (full context)
Part 2
Destruction and Creation Theme Icon
...has given up on T.’s idea. But once he comes close, he can hear the sounds of destruction going on inside. (full context)
Class and a Changing World Theme Icon
Adolescence, Age, and Rebellion Theme Icon
Destruction and Creation Theme Icon
...the only one not working, he is sitting in the non-functioning bathroom listening to the sounds of the destruction. T. instructs Blackie to destroy the bathroom, while also giving Mike new... (full context)
Part 3
Destruction and Creation Theme Icon
...Mike and another boy are not able to come. Rain begins to fall and thunder sounds. Summers has become bored and wants to go play on the slot machines, but T.... (full context)
Codes of Behavior Theme Icon
Money and the Value of Things Theme Icon
Destruction and Creation Theme Icon
...his cries if they did. He feels old and helpless. After a bit, Mr. Thomas hears sounds coming from his house and, peering out through a hole, can see light inside... (full context)
Part 4
Destruction and Creation Theme Icon
...part of the job, although it is not made clear what this is. Mr. Thomas hears sawing, which he can tell is not coming from inside his house. This reassures him. (full context)
Destruction and Creation Theme Icon
...the lot to get his lorry early the next morning. He can hear a faint sound of someone shouting, but ignores it. Then he turns on the lorry and backs it... (full context)