The Destructors


Graham Greene

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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.

Related Themes from Other Texts
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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:
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:
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:

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”
Page Number: 20-21
Explanation and Analysis: