Bringing the Old house Down: Between the Lines of “The Destructors” Research Paper
Updated: Jun 20th, 2019
In his short story ‘The Destructors’, Graham Greene narrates a story of a group of young boys who enjoy bus riding for free. The story is based on events after World War II. The war left destruction of property and misery in the faces of many. While at the bus station, the boys made a plan to destroy the sole house of an old man that was left standing.
Their mischievousness finally succeeds when they destroy the old man’s house a driver of a truck pulls the house down unknowingly. In the short story, two themes stand out. One of these themes is power. Power is manifested in the boy’s gang group. Blackie is the leader of the group and believes that power is the ability of an individual to lead.
He is portrayed as a good leader. However, when T takes the mantle of leadership, power corrupts him and leads the gang into the involvement of cruel acts of destruction and even theft: “We aren’t thieves,’ T said. ‘Nobody’s going to steal anything from this house. I kept these for you and me – a celebration” (Greene 16).
Innocence is yet another theme that is exhibited in the story. The boys in the story are teens. In their teenage years innocence is lost as they get in touch with the outside world via technology. They begin to show signs of naivety, ignorance and disrespect: “We’ll show him we don’t take bribes” (Greene 10). It seems that the war did not teach them any lesson. The boys are not worried about the destruction caused by the war. To them, this is normal.
The war has made them lose their youthful innocence giving them an opportunity to reconstruct their world order but resorts to destruction. The boys have lost their innocence and their imagination only makes them think about a worse world full of destruction.
Along with innocence, such positive aspect of boys’ life as friendship between the members of the “gang” must be considered, since Greene devotes a great chunk of his novel to showing the relationships between the boys.
Despite the fact that there are certain conflicts between the boys arising in the course of the events, as it has been mentioned in the previous paragraph, they are still innocent and, therefore, their relationships are quite close to the idea of male bonding: “The new recruit has been with the gang since the beginning of the summer holidays, and there were possibilities about his brooding silence that all recognized” (Greene 9).
It is clear from the passage above that there are trustworthy relationships between the members of the “gang”, as well as mutual respect. Even though there is subordination in the gang, as it has been mentioned above, the boys still make great friends, which is addressed well. Moreover, Greene touches upon such an important aspect as destruction. On the surface, the whole idea of bringing the house down sees rather simple.
However, when considering the process of destroying the house as a symbol, one must admit that the above-mentioned process can embody the process of destruction within a person, e.g., the destruction of one’s morals, beliefs, or innocence, for that matter. In the given context, the idea of breaking the house down can be viewed as getting rid of the false beliefs which the boys used to take for granted, such as the fact that a leader is completely unshakeable, which Blackie realizes in the course of the story.
It is also quite peculiar that the author of the novel focuses on such an essential element of a teenager’s life as the moment of rebellion. Despite the fact that there is no actual boiling point after which all hell breaks loose, the author portrays the boys breaking bad in a rather graphic and natural way.
The above-mentioned destruction of a house can be considered as a symbol for breaking the social barriers: “They had learned with practice and the second door collapsed more easily” (Greene 17). Finally, the conflict between generations has been addressed in a rather subtle yet efficient manner.
It is clear that the readers are supposed to sympathize with the band of boys, which is the focus of the narration, while Mr. Thomas, who is actually the victim of the boys’ prank and who suffered a night in a locked room, does not actually cause the readers’ sympathy. Indeed, a character called as an “Old Misery”: “It is to do with opposite forces, Old Misery says” (Greene 11). What bridges the representatives of the two generations in the given case is the above-mentioned naivety.
Like the boys with their naïve vision of beauty (“‘What do you mean, a beautiful house?’ […] ‘It’s got a staircase two hundred years old like a corkscrew.’” (Greene 11), Mr. Thomas is also very naïve about the world in general and Blackie, Joe, Mike, Summers and T. in particular: “’Do Hurry, Mr. Thomas. He’ll suffocate.’ ‘Nonsense. He can’t suffocate. Wait till I put my bag in.’” (Greene 17). Therefore, it is clear that the novel links the characters, blurring the differences between them.
Greene, Graham n. d. The Destructors. PDF file. 10 Nov. 2012. <https://subrosa.umwblogs.org/files/2009/03/the-destructors.pdf>.
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