How does the setting play a key role in this story?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting is key to Graham Greene's "The Destructors" because it alludes to what is at the core of the story: the baseness of human nature. The effects of the atrocities and destruction of World War II remain in the setting of London nine years after the war is over, producing an influence upon the youth.

The main character, a boy called simply T., represents the nihilism that has resulted from the destruction of London in World War II. Left with nothing, the underclass rejects traditional class values as they are surrounded by little that is not ruined. This emptiness of the setting is conveyed in the description of where the gang meets,

The gang met every morning in an impromptu car-park, the site of the last bomb of the first blitz... On one side of the car-park leaned the first occupied house...--literally leaned, for it had suffered from the blast of the bomb and the side walls were supported on wooden struts.

In destroying Old Misery's home, the boys imitate the past happenings of their environment. T. tells the others,

"We are going to destroy this house. There won't be anything left when we've finished."

This act of T. also represents the class struggle in the British society in the decade after World War II. "Destruction, after all, is a form of creation," observed Graham Greene. So, the boys reflect class restructuring in their act as lower class citizens who destroy the remaining upper class in their area. Yet, while T. rejects the social class values, he remains strangely ethical, ordering the boys not to steal anything; in fact, he burns Old Misery's banknotes when they uncover them, celebrating, instead, the destruction of that which symbolizes the wealthy class which is consistent with his nihilism.

Read the study guide:
The Destructors

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question