In The Destructors, what kind of symbolism is demonstrated in regards to the house, the drab landscape, shadows, misery and worms?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The story takes place against the backdrop of a war-ravaged London. The boys who make up the Wormsley Common gang are from poor, underprivileged backgrounds, and the bleak landscape in which they live symbolizes this. The very name of the local area, Wormsley Common, conjures up images of decay, of a corpse riddled with worms. This is the kind of environment in which the boys live. Old Misery's stately home stands as a symbol of a bygone age, an age of elegance and nobility. The home is a representation of a vanishing heritage, one unceremoniously swept away by the Second World War.

Though considerably more pleasing than its immediate surroundings, the house is also a symbol of national decay, an old building in an advanced state of dilapidation. T. represents the new spirit of social leveling, one that wishes to sweep away the old hierarchies of British society to usher in a new era of equality in which the common man is king. T. wants to destroy the house, representing as it does an enervated social system in which his family once thrived. He and the other boys in the gang will act as worms, eating away at society from within. They are the products of this almost apocalyptic landscape; society has produced its own gravediggers, its own destroyers.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The story, The Destructors is actually an allegory for the decline of the post independent Sri Lankan state so the story is full of symbolism. The house actually allegorically represents or is the symbol for the Sri Lankan state. Greene uses personification to make the house a character in the story (for example upon Blackie's approach on destruction day, the house is said to look as if it had slept). In turn then the surrounding area represents or symbolizes the area around Sri Lanka, which was destroyed by blitzes (aerial bomb attacks). The misery and shadows symbolize the mood of the state and the people. War and political strife are dark times in states and countries and misery and shadows do well to represent those feelings. T. describing the boys as being worms symbolizes the destruction from the inside out. He doesn't want to damage the house, he wants to destroy it, to make it something other than a house because after-all destruction is really just creation in disguise, which was the point of bringing Sri Lanka down, from the inside out, to make it something entirely different than it was before.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial