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What "limitations" are on the boys in "The Destructors" by Graham Greene?

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teacher7121 | eNoter

Posted December 9, 2011 at 11:04 AM via web

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What "limitations" are on the boys in "The Destructors" by Graham Greene?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 29, 2011 at 8:20 PM (Answer #1)

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This is an interesting question to consider. I think one of the biggest limitations you need to think about in terms of the boys in the gang is the way that, until T. comes along, they are limited in terms of the scope of their imagination. They have set themselves up as a kind of anarchic group that has positioned themselves in opposition to society. However, as their activities show, they hardly have amounted to much as a gang in terms of making significant blows against society:

At Blackie’s suggestion the gang was to disperse in pairs, take buses at random and see how many free rides could be snatched from unwary conductors (the operation was to be carried out in pairs to avoid cheating). They were drawing lots for their companions when T arrived.

This is hardly the most revolutionary and significant of actions to clearly state the way that the gang oppose society, as I am sure you will agree. However, this changes when T. comes along. What sells the idea of destroying Old Misery's house to Blackie is the way that it is something that they had never done before and had never been done by anyone else. The limitation of a lack of imagination has been removed:

He thought of going home, of never returning, of letting them all discover the hollowness of T’s leadership, but suppose after all what T proposed was possible – nothing like it had ever been done before. The fame of the Wormsley Common car park gang would surely reach around London. There would be headlines in the papers. Even the grown-up gangs who ran the betting at the all-in wrestling and the barrow-boys would hear with respect of how Old Misery’s house had been destroyed. Driven by the pure, simple and altruistic ambition of fame for the gang, Blackie came back to where T stood in the shadow of Misery’s wall.

Such thoughts clearly indicate the shift that has occurred in the thinking of the gang, as they move from stealing free rides to actually making a significant and conclusive statement about who they are and what they stand for by the destruction of Old Misery's house.

Thus one of the key limitations is the way that the gang are limited by their own lack of imagination and plan for acting upon what they want to be and dream of being.

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 10, 2011 at 12:10 AM (Answer #2)

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I encourage you to think globally as well as narrowly in how you answer this question.  There are some obvious narrow limitations on this group, but in the bigger context of their situation, there are also larger limitations.

The most prominent narrow limitation on the group is the leadership.  The group is governed by one boy at a time, and tends to go along with whatever ideas this boy has.  At first, the leader is Blackie.  His ideas for destruction are generally innocent.  His idea of competition for "free bus rides" is delinquent, yes, but doesn't actually hurt anyone.  When the power shifts to T., the group's sense of destruction includes victimizing someone who may or may not be innocent.  The destruction of Old Misery's house comes as a singular idea presented by the newest member of the group, and as far as the reader can tell, no one in the group questions it.

Looking at the limitations of leadership and the ease with which these boys are swayed into new ideas presents a few of the more global limitations they possess.  The first is their age.  They are presented as generally innocent of mind, despite the lack of innocence in their actions.  The general disregard of any real sense of consequences shows them to be limited by inexperience.  They also seem to be limited by their narrow perspective of the world.  Likely, they've never seen beyond the confines of their own destroyed neighborhood.  There is also very little evidence presented about a sense of parental authority in the boys' lives.  This lack of global perspective limits the boys to their own imaginations and the peer pressure of one another to act as a group.

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