Discuss the gang's motivation, taking into account the age/ beauty of the house, the gang's loss of concern over leadership, the burning of the banknotes, and their consideration for Old Misery.

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amymc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In answering this question, I will take into account each of your categories separately:

1:  Age/Beauty of the house

The boys are living in a war zone in which bombing raids have and still are terrifying London.  We are told that Trevor's home and some of the other boys' homes as well have been leveled by the bombs, making their lives chaotic and uncertain.  Because Old Misery's house still stands despite its age, the boys, especially Trevor, become jealous at the injustice of its survival.  Trevor, whose father was an architect, mentions “ 'It’s a beautiful house,' and still watching the ground, meeting no one’s eyes, he licked his lips first one way, then the other." He reacts to its beauty which spurs his need to destroy it.

2: Gang's Concern over Loss of Leadership

Young people are fickle.  While Blackie had been the longstanding leader of the gang, Trevor, an older boy, seems more appealing to the rest.  He had a more interesting agenda and an intricate plan.  While Blackie was temporarily hurt by his pals' lack of loyalty, the idea of being left out overcame him, and he rejoined the group.  His desire to be a part of something was more important than being in charge of it.

3:  Burning of Banknotes

The burning of Old Misery's life savings is a key indicator that the demolition was about placing a type of rationality and logic in a highly irrational and illogical environment.  The plan is to systematically destroy the house from the inside out "...like worms...in an apple...." Trevor makes it clear to Blackie that stealing the money would mean they hated Old Misery, and this job had nothing to do with emotion, just destruction.

4: Consideration for Old Misery

In keeping with Trevor's idea of keeping emotion out of it, the boys must also treat him as nicely as possible when he returns home early.  They do lure him to the loo, but once he is secured inside, they treat him kindly.  They bring him blankets and food.  Again, the destruction is as unemotional as bombs are; they do not overtly wish Old Misery harm.

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The gang's motivation for pulling down Old Misery's house seems to have nothing to do with any personal feelings any of them have for Old Misery himself.  Their only personal encounter with Old Misery prior to the destruction reveals their collective disaffection with adult authority; though Old Misery kindly offers them some chocolates, they respond with suspicion and ingratitude. In pulling down his house, the boys demonstrate no desire to physically hurt him or punish him. To most of them, it is just a house, and its destruction is no better or worse than the destruction of any other English house during the Blitz. 

Trevor is the exception when it comes to their motivation for destroying this particular house.  As the son of an architect who has recently fallen in the socially stratified world of England, Trevor recognizes the significance of a house designed by Wren. It is Trevor's decision to target this particular house, and in doing so, he leads the others in an act of socioeconomic protest.  The world that has rejected his family must suffer.  The boys simply follow Trevor's lead to satisfy their own appetites for wanton destruction. 

The burning of the banknotes underscores the idea that the boys, particularly Trevor, are not motivated by greed. They are not thieves. 

Their concern over the gang's leadership fades as the boys immerse themselves in the work of destroying the house.  Each boy concentrates on his own role and thinks less of who is calling the shots once.  Their motivations become personal and they develop agency in how they each exert their own destructive power.

renelane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The devastation cause d by the war has left everything in ruins except for Old Misery. The last standing object of beauty is both miraculous and upsetting to the gang of boys. The loss of humanity fills the boys with a need to destroy it, to complete the ruination of their community.

Nothing has value anymore. Not the long-standing social order-respect for elders, or the leadership among the boys. Money has no value either, and burning it is symbolic in that aspect.

In some respects, the gang feels it is better to do away with all vestiges of the life before the war, and by destructing the house, they have accomplished that.

sunnyn99 | Student

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The Destructors

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