The Destructors


Graham Greene

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The Destructors: Part 4 Summary & Analysis

The boys finish preparing for the house’s destruction by chiseling away so at one point in the wall the house is balanced on just a few narrow inches of mortar. The boys then complete the most dangerous 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.
Mr. Thomas allows himself to be reassured by the sounds that the boys make as they arrange for his house’s final, irrevocable destruction. This is a further suggestion that the old man lacks the understanding he would need to create a new life out of the destruction that seems about to befall him, and that he does not understand the world he is living in.
Destruction and Creation Theme Icon
One of the boys slips Mr. Thomas a blanket and some food through a hole in the lavatory door. Mr. Thomas asks to be let out so he can sleep comfortably, saying he needs to because of his rheumatism. The boy tells him he would no longer be comfortable sleeping in his house, then leaves without providing any further explanation.
This boy is presumably T.. By bringing Mr. Thomas the blanket and snack, he proves that he means what he says about not hating Mr. Thomas. Even with this act of kindness, though, T. demonstrates the lack of understanding youth has for age by failing to appreciate how uncomfortable Mr. Thomas will be cooped up in the lavatory all night, and how much more uncomfortable he will be in the future, without a home or money.
Adolescence, Age, and Rebellion Theme Icon
The lorry driver comes to 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 up, but when he tries to pull out of the lot it feels as if the lorry is being pulled by something attached to it. Then the lorry moves forward with a huge crashing sound and a shower of debris falling all around. The driver gets out to find the house reduced to a pile of rubble, and the back of his lorry tied to a wooden strut.
This section reveals that the boys tied the struts that supported Mr. Thomas’s house to the back of the lorry. The lorry driver ignores the sound of Mr. Thomas’s shouts, only paying attention after the sounds of destruction have alerted him to their importance.
Destruction and Creation Theme Icon
Now aware of the shouting, the lorry driver goes to the outdoor lavatory and lets Mr. Thomas out. Mr. Thomas lets out a sob when he sees the destruction and asks where his house is. The driver begins to laugh, and Mr. Thomas is indignant. But although the driver tries to contain his laughter, he can’t help it: the sight of the rubble where just a few minutes before the house had stood “with such dignity between the bomb-sites like a man in a top hat” strikes him as hilarious.
T. said he could not wait to see Mr. Thomas’s face when he saw his destroyed house, and so the lorry driver serves as a kind of stand-in for T. in this scene. The driver says his laughter “isn’t personal,” suggesting that he shares the sentiments of T., who claimed not to hate Mr. Thomas or want to be cruel to him. What he laughs at is the destruction of a house that resembles a man in a top hat and represents to him the rigid class structure of England’s past. This shows that the driver, and adults in general who belonged to the formerly “lower classes,” also feel themselves to be a part of a group with a code that will help them to reshape their world in the wake of the destruction of the war. It is funny to see the old fall, if you can imagine creating the new in its place.
Class and a Changing World Theme Icon
Codes of Behavior Theme Icon
Destruction and Creation Theme Icon
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