The Destructors Questions and Answers
by Graham Greene

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The Destructors Setting

What is the setting for "The Destructors" by Graham Greene?

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At the beginning of "The Destructors," the August bank holiday is mentioned as the time when Trevor or "T" joins the gang.  The August bank holiday in London is at the end of August, that places the setting in late summer. It is some years after the Blitz, so it is approximately the 1950s.  The gang lives in Wormsley, a fictionalized area that could be a section of London, Buckinghamsire, Essex, or Hertfordshire, since the Wormsley Common Underground Station is mentioned, and the subway runs in the aforementioned locations.

The area in which Old Misery and the boys live must have been a nice neighborhood at one time, given that the house in which Old Misery lives was designed by the famed British architect Sir Christopher Wren.  The area, however, is no longer upscale, as evidenced by the working-class speech of the boys and the proximity of Old Misery's house to a parking lot. Moreover, many of the neighboring houses have been completely destroyed or heavily damaged by The Blitz. 

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The setting is in England after the end of World War II when everything is still bombed out and demolished. A parking lot in a town surrounded by bomb-destroyed neighborhood is where the boys meet. The one house left standing is where the action takes places.

In this short story it is important to identify how the setting explicitly relates to the theme that Greene wishes to convey in this brilliant tale of post-war nihilism and emptiness. Consider the description that we are given of where the gang meets and how the setting contributes towards the mood of pessimism and emptiness that dominates the tale:

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, number 3, of the shattered Northwood Terrace--literally leanded, for it had suffered from the blast of the bomb and the side walls were supported on wooden struts. A smaller bomb and some incendiaries had fallen beyond, so that the house stuck up like a jagged tooth...

The setting is thus already a site of destruction, as bomb blasts have completely demolished the buildings and number 3 is poorly supported and isolated. How fitting therefore that it is this site that the gang chooses to meet in, because the emptiness and isolation of this scene corresponds with the emptiness and emotional detachment that is displayed by characters such as T. in this tale. The setting therefore corresponds to the psychological exploration of the impact of war on children.

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