Identify the conflicts of "The Destructors" by Graham Greene.

2 Answers | Add Yours

lentzk's profile pic

Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The central conflict in Graham Greene's short story "The Destructors" revolves around the Wormsley Common gang's desire to destroy Mr. Thomas' grand old house next door.  Trevor, or T as his fellow gang-members call him, create an elaborate scheme to destroy Old Misery's house from the inside out.  The boys plan their schedules, work tools, and set their plan in motion when Mr. Thomas leaves for a bank holiday. 

The conflict of the boys working to destroy the house can be seen as two different types of conflict:  man vs. society or man vs. environment.  The boys' destruction of Old Misery's house is their way of making a statement to society and their neighborhood; it is their way of making a name for themselves and building notoriety.  The Wormsley Common gang does not approve of what the fine, old house represents--a more genteel time of sophistication and higher social class conventions. 

The conflict of the boys' destructive plan is also suggestive of man vs. environment; the boys battle the inner workings of the house, the plumbing, the paneling, the electrical wiring, all in an attempt to bring Old Misery's house down.

jameadows's profile pic

jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

One of the conflicts in "The Destructors" is about who will lead the Wormsley Common gang. To date, Blackie has run the gang, and he has devoted his gang to activities such as getting free rides on buses. However, over time, Trevor, or T. as he is known, becomes the leader of the gang and devotes the gang to different types of activities.

Another conflict that T. introduces into the gang is that of class. He is clearly from a higher class than the rest of the gang, as his father, now a clerk, used to be an architect, and "his mother considered herself better than the neighbors." When T. describes Old Misery's house as "beautiful," another member of the gang reacts to his wording. Blackie thinks:

"It was the word 'beautiful' that worried him—that belonged to a class world that you could still see parodied at the Wormsley Common Empire by a man wearing a top hat and a monocle, with a haw-haw accent."

T. clearly comes from a higher class, and he interjects the question of class and of how people speak into the gang.

In addition, T. devotes the gang to destroying the house in a process that involves the ultimate conflict of creation versus destruction. As the gang destroys the house, they are creating something new. The question is whether they are actually destructive if they are creative. As Greene writes, "destruction after all is a form of creation." The conflict is whether the gang is engaging in a crime or in a form of rebirth as they take apart the old house. 

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,915 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question