What is the conflict of the story "The Destructors"?
The conflict of the story "The Destructors" is creation versus destruction. The gang members in the story have grown up seeing the results of the blitz, the Nazi destruction of London and other parts of England through bombing. They gather at the beginning of the story at the car-park that is the site of the last bombing of the first blitz, and they set themselves to the task of destroying an old house that was supposedly built by Wren, the famous architect who designed St. Paul's. They choose this house in part because it was so ornately constructed that destroying it will be an act of creativity. As Greene describes their actions, "they worked with the seriousness of creators—and destruction after all is a form of creation." In other words, creation and destruction are two parts of the same process—a process that would have been very real to people in post-war London who created a new city in the parts of the old city that had been destroyed.
There is also a strong element of class conflict in the story. The boys of the Wormsley Common gang are poor and working-class. Trevor, or T, originally comes from a fairly prosperous middle-class background. In order to fit in with the other boys in the gang he eggs them on to commit the mindless destruction of Mr. Thomas' house and to burn all his money. In leading the assault on the house, Trevor is finally rejecting his previous middle-class existence. He cannot stand the fact that he no longer has much in the way of material possessions and so feels deep resentment to those who do. His burning of Mr. Thomas' money in the mattress is his way of resolving what is clearly a deep internal conflict between his identity as a member of the Wormsley Common gang and his former self. This inner conflict mirrors the external class conflict between the working-class boys and Mr. Thomas, which manifests itself in the destruction of his property.
The conflict of "The Destructors" is primarily man vs. society. The boys have had their innocence stripped by the events of World War II. They use their imagination to reconstruct scenes of violence, demonstrating the influence of their environment on them. The bombed out area in which they meet symbolizes this. In addition to violence, the boys struggle to assert power and hierarchy, just as wars are fought for this purpose.