The Destructors

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Destruction and Creation Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Class and a Changing World Theme Icon
Codes of Behavior Theme Icon
Money and the Value of Things Theme Icon
Adolescence, Age, and Rebellion Theme Icon
Destruction and Creation Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Destructors, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Destruction and Creation Theme Icon

The idea that destruction is a form of creation is drawn from the section of the story describing the end of the boys’ first day destroying Mr. Thomas’s house. The mood of the narration becomes distinctly philosophical in its description of the boys: “they worked with the seriousness of creators – and destruction after all is a form of creation. A kind of imagination had seen this house as it had now become.” The creative elements of destruction are expressed in several ways throughout the story.

First, the story points out that the sounds of destruction closely resemble the sounds of creation. While he is trapped in the lavatory, Mr. Thomas, who used to work supervising the building of homes, mistakes the sounds coming from his house for those produced by carpenters at work building a home.

Outside of the action taking place on Mr. Thomas’s property, the story is set on an empty parking lot created when bombs destroyed the houses that stood there prior to the war. The destruction of Mr. Thomas’s house expands the lot in which the boys meet daily, creating a larger gathering space for public use in a space where a private residence stood before.

Similarly, the social environment of the story was created through the destruction of the war. All the boys, but especially T., is a product of the new kinds of thinking that replaced the old social and political frameworks after the war. The boys operate democratically and, under T.’s influence, organize themselves so that their labor is as powerful and efficient as possible. These priorities reflect the political climate in England after war, when the Labour Party won an election for the first time on a platform appealing to common people and workers. The boys’ language, then, reflects the destruction of old class definitions and the political struggle then going on. England as a whole, and the Wormsley Common Gang in particular, hopes that the destruction wrought by the war will pave the way for new groups to assert their political rights for the first time.

Yet the story leaves it entirely to the reader’s imagination how the boys’ destruction of Mr. Thomas’s house will impact each character’s future. T., for instance, has allowed himself to be seen by Mr. Thomas so that he could lead him to the lavatory and trap him there. It seems likely, then, that T. will be caught and punished, entailing that this act of destruction creates a new reputation for him that will change the way the world sees him, and perhaps the way he sees himself. As the other boys grow up, they will need to think of new ways to understand the cruel act that they committed when still boys. It is Mr. Thomas’s fate which may be the exception that proves the rule. It seems likely that the destruction of his home, all his possessions and his life savings may prove to be a disaster that he cannot weather. Far from creating the next chapter in his life, this destruction may very well prove to be the blow that destroys him entirely. Destruction can be a force of creation in that it creates a blank slate upon which new things – whether parking lots or political movements – can grow. Yet destruction becomes an act of creation only for individuals and societies young and innovative enough to move forward and build something new out of the rubble.

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Destruction and Creation ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Destruction and Creation appears in each Part of The Destructors. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Destruction and Creation Quotes in The Destructors

Below you will find the important quotes in The Destructors related to the theme of Destruction and Creation.
Part 1 Quotes

The gang met every morning in an impromptu car-park, the site of the last bomb of the first blitz. The leader, who was known as Blackie, claimed to have heard it fall, and no one was precise enough in his dates to point out that he would have been one year old and fast asleep on the down platform of Wormsley Common Underground Station.

Related Characters: Blackie
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote describes the story’s setting and situates the action in its historical moment. The story takes place in Northwood Terrace, a London housing development that was ruined during the Second World War. During the war the German enemy conducted a series of massive bombing campaigns that were called blitzes (from the word Blitzkrieg, or “lightning strike” in German). These attacks destroyed over a million buildings in London. The action unfolds after the war has long been over, but the physical damage done to London is still visible all over the city. The characters meet daily in a parking lot that was created after the rubble from the ruined bombed-out houses had been carted away. That this public place was created by the destruction of private space mirrors what the boys themselves will ultimately do to Mr. Thomas’s house.

The quote also introduces another of the story’s protagonists, Blackie, who is the leader of the gang until his place gets usurped by T. Blackie pretends to remember the sound of the bombing, which makes him seem knowledgeable and experienced to the other boys. This is the first time that the story draws a connection between a character’s ability to hear and interpret the sounds of destruction and the character’s ability to adapt and thrive in a changing world.

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Part 2 Quotes

The dining-room was stripped of parquet, the skirting was up, the door had been taken off its hinge, and the destroyers had moved up a floor. Streaks of light came in through the closed shutters where they worked with the seriousness of creators - and destruction after all is a form of creation. A kind of imagination had seen this house as it had now become.

Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage explicitly ties destruction to creation. The boys are deliberate, sticking to T.’s master plan for the destruction of the house. But what exactly is being created? This is a question to keep in mind while reading the rest of the story. For one, the social connection between the boys is altered, as the seriousness T. brings to the endeavor spreads to the rest of the gang. The boys are having the experience of organizing their labor, something that all of England was then experiencing with the rise of the Labour Party following the Second World War. Secondly, this act of destruction will also likely expand the size of the parking lot where the boys of the Wormsley Common Gang meet. Finally, this destruction will impact the characters’ lives in the future not portrayed within the confines of the story.

Part 3 Quotes

'Oh no, we haven't. Anybody could do this -' 'this' was the shattered hollowed house with nothing left but the walls. Yet walls could be preserved. Facades were valuable. They could build inside again more beautifully than before. This could again be a home. He said angrily, 'We've got to finish. Don’t move. Let me think.'

Related Characters: Trevor, or “T.” (speaker)
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

Mike has warned the gang that Mr. Thomas has come home early from his vacation and will soon arrive. The other boys, especially Summers, want to give up on completing the total destruction of the house to avoid being caught, but T. is determined to finish. He wants to strip the house of any value as a material possession and make certain it can never be used as a home again. For destruction to be a kind of creation, it must be carried out as it was envisioned and completed. If the house is not utterly demolished, then the damages to it may be repaired, and no new thing will come to be created in the space where it once stood.

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.