How does Greene powerfully create suspense in "The Destructors"?

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

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One way in which suspense is created is through a description of the surroundings that become something of a playground to the boys. They have grown up knowing nothing but the realities of war and destruction. Greene wrote this story to explore the impact of a lifetime of war on young children and how this would impact them. Note the following description:

On one side of the car-park leaned the first occupied house, number 3, of the shattered Northwood Terrace—literally leaned, for it had suffered from the blast of the bomb and the side walls were supported on wooden struts. A smaller bomb and some incendiaries had fallen beyond, so that the house stuck up like a jagged tooth and carried on the further wall relics of its neighbour, a dado, the remains of a fireplace.

This is the surroundings where the gang meet and decide what they are going to do each day. The destruction that they are surrounded with every single day clearly has an impact on the characters of the gang, and perhaps particularly on T., who is shown to have a "brooding silence" that all the gang recognise as being potentially very powerful. Suspense is created through an expectation in the reader's mind: if this is all the reality that these children have ever known, what is it that they are capable of doing if all they have seen is violence and destruction? How far can they go? It is in the answer to these questions that Greene creates suspense and also explores the impact of war on children's psyches.

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