How does the Wormsley Common Gang represent humanity in Graham Greene's story "The Destructors"?
In a sense, the Wormsley Common Gang represents the post-World War II generation in which nihilism prevails. For there is nothing in the boys that approves of the old social order represented by Old Misery.
The house, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, represents the "old order" and Christianity, both of which were assaulted in World War II. After the devastation of the war, particularly the bombing of London, there was a certain social and economic instability as reflected with Trevor's father, who like Wren is an architect, although he has been reduced to working as a mere clerk to the chagrin of his disappointed wife, who considers herself the social superior of her neighbors. Old Misery himself was once a builder and decorator, but now he lives alone in "the crippled house" whose plumbing malfunctions. Since he is too stingy to pay to have it fixed and does not know how to repair it himself, the "lav" is outside in a small wooden shed.
Just as the old mansion is destroyed by the boys from the inside, so too has the city of London, been damaged from the inside. London experienced economic and social uncertainty and instability after the war, and, of course, the infrastructure of the city was nearly demolished. In addition, there is a generational clash with the boys and the old man which is reflective of the English society of post-World War II.
Blackie, the first leader of the Wormsley Common Gang, loses his power, just as the upper class loses its place in England. Those aspirations of this ruling class have been defeated, just as Trevor has the boys systematically destroy the old mansion from the inside out, a direction that is symbolic of the condition of Christian civilization in England. There is no longer a unifying providential principle; the younger generation of T. and his gang believe in nothing. Trevor does not even wish to steal anything of value. From a drawer, he pulls seventy bundles of pound notes that the miser has kept hidden; one by one, he sets fire to them as he looks around the room "crowded with the unfamiliar shadows of half things, broken things, former things."
Later, T. tells the boys, "we are going to destroy this house. There won't be anything left when we've finished."
After some time and great destruction from within, the "question of leadership no longer concerned the gang," as their absorption into nihilism is complete. Ironically, however, Graham writes that in destroying Old Misery's house, the Wormsley Gang works "with the seriousness of creators" since "destruction after all is a form of creation." One critic believes Greene views destruction as
a creative act of a bold imagination. He [Greene] accepts, that is, a view of time and history as cyclical process, a process that inevitably involves the demise of Western Christian civilization (eNotes).
In this view, then, the aftermath of World War II has affected, through its disaffected youth such as the Wormsley Common Gang, moral and physical destruction.