Graham Greene’s ‘‘The Destructors’’ was first published in two parts in Picture Post on July 24 and 31, 1954. Later that year, the story appeared in a collection entitled Twenty-One Stories. Because Greene arranged the stories in reverse chronological order, ‘‘The Destructors’’ was the first story in the collection.
‘‘The Destructors’’ disturbed its readers, yet it remains one of Greene’s most anthologized short stories. Despite its setting in post-World War II England, the story is universal in its reflection of human nature. The story contains many of Greene’s hallmarks, most importantly that of placing people who have the capacity for good and evil in situations where they must make a choice between the two. The boys in ‘‘The Destructors’’ are still young enough to be innocent, yet they make cruel and selfish choices. This story is also a link to Greene’s earliest fiction in which he often portrayed young people being initiated into the adult world. Commenting on this story and three others (‘‘A Chance for Mr. Lever,’’ ‘‘Under the Garden,’’ and ‘‘Cheap in August’’), Greene declared that he was completely satisfied and had never written anything better.