What is the exposition of "The Destructors"  by Graham Greene?

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edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The exposition of a short story often includes the setting, backgrounds of the characters, and a reference to any events that took place prior to the beginning of the story.

  • The setting of the story is the eve of the August bank holiday in England, sometime after WWII, likely the late 1940's or early 1950's. The characters live in a working-class neighborhood called Wormsley.
  • The backgrounds of the characters is that they are all young males in a group that calls itself the Wormsley Common gang.  The latest recruit is Trevor, who goes by the nickname "T"; he has been raised in a higher class than the other boys, but his family has recently fallen in society due to his father's comedown from architect to clerk.  T challenges Blackie to become the leader of the group. Mike is a nine-year-old who has been cowed by the others. The boys' victim, Mr. Thomas, is known by the boys as "Old Misery."  He had once been a decorator and builder, but is retired and living alone in his once grand home designed by Sir Christopher Wren. 
  • Events that took place before the story begins include the Blitz of WWII which has destroyed many homes in the neighborhood.  Old Misery's house has been damaged in the bombings and leans to one side; it also does not have functioning indoor plumbing.
amymc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Exposition is generally the background information that helps give the story a frame in which to be read and understood.  In the case of "The Destructors" this frame can be attributed to the setting, the historical background and the social situation of the young protagonists.

The story is set in England, after WWII and as the Depression looms. It was a time of physical, mental and financial recovery from a war with an unsettling, pessimistic view of the future.

The boys in the story call themselves the Wormsley gang and are reminiscent of the teddy boys from the era.  The teddy boys were packs of juvenile deliquents who wreaked unexplained havoc where they went - thus the title of the story. These boys frequent areas of town destroyed by bombs and look for ways to pass the time and have fun with their devastation.

Their target is a man's home.  Their senseless destruction and terrorization of the man and his home are indicative of the attitudes of their generation and the harsh reality of their world.