What is the significance of the setting in "The Destructors" by Graham Greene?

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The famous short story "The Destructors" by Graham Greene tells of a group of boys called the Wormsley Common Gang, who decide to demolish the home of an elderly man named Mr. Thomas, also known as Old Misery. The boys persevere in their destructive task despite upheavals in gang leadership, conflicting schedules with their home life, and the untimely reappearance of Old Misery, who they had supposed was gone for the duration of their exploit.

The setting of the story is of profound significance as far as the story's theme of destruction as an act of creation is concerned. The historical setting is London in the aftermath of World War II. The entire country, and particularly the city of London, has been immersed in the destruction of the war, and evidence of the war's consequences is all around. For instance, the house the boys decide to destroy sticks up "like a jagged tooth" in an otherwise bombed-out area. This decimated cityscape is the story's larger setting. The bombs had destroyed the house's pipes, and so Old Misery uses an outhouse down at the bottom of his garden—a fact that becomes a crucial plot point near the end of the story.

The interior of Old Misery's house and the grounds around it serve as the focused setting of the story. As mentioned above, the house is already partially destroyed, and the boys manifest no remorse in demolishing the rest of it. In fact, they revel in the destruction as if they were building up instead of breaking down. So we can see that the historical setting, the surrounding cityscape, and the house and grounds of Old Misery all contribute to the theme of "The Destructors."

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The setting in Graham Greene's short story "The Destructors" is definitely significant to the plot and characterization.  The short story takes place in England in the mid-fifties, approximately nine years after the end of World War II.  The boys in the Wormsley Common gang "met every morning in an impromptu car park, the site of the last bomb of the first blitz."

The most significant aspect of the setting is the way the destruction of London during World War II, the imagery of the bombed out car park and the ravaged neighborhood, affect the boys in the Wormsley Common Gang.  Surely these images of violence and destruction impact the boys' decision to destroy Old Misery's house, an act of rebellion against a society that has betrayed them.

 

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