Who is the protagonist in "The Destructors"?

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

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Trevor is the protagonist of Graham Greene's short story "The Destructors."  As the central conflict of the story unfolds, the reader sees that the Wormsley Common gang yearns to prove themselves as a real gang; the destruction of Old Misery's house would solidify their place in society.  In this context, the primary conflict is man versus society as the boys attempt to prove themselves to society by destroying Mr. Thomas' grand old house, an iconic symbol of the upper class prestige.  Two central antagonists emerge as possible threats to Trevor and to the gang's attempts to destroy the house: Blackie and Mr. Thomas.  Blackie deliberately tries to undermine T's leadership to take control of the gang for himself, whereas Mr. Thomas as antagonist must be contained in order for the boys to finish their wholesale destruction of his home. 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Another argument can be made for England as the protagonist, represented by the old, traditional house that remains standing. The boys who destroy it are the young, disaffected generation, who represent the antagonists.

Graham Greene's story exemplifies the destruction of values resulting from the bombings of London. If a gentleman's class could engage in such brutal actions as warfare, why should not the youth imitate these acts of devaluation, subjugation, and deprivation? This is what the disaffected generation of working class British find themselves doing. Thus, the story is a metaphor for the class struggle and the emotional impact of a war in the time following World War II.

The house is held up by outside braces in the forms of wooden struts, the objective correlatives of the weakened British Empire and its ruling class, whose political and social structure is crumbling. The boys are lead first by Blackie, who distrusts completely the upper class in the form of Mr. Thomas, known as Old Misery. He simply wants to sneak into the house, but not steal anything; however, Trevor, who wants to be called "T" as he rejects his upper class name, becomes the leader and insists upon taking the house apart piece by piece until it crumbles.

Trevor represents nihilism, the sense of nothingness. He tells Blackie, 

"All this hate and love...it's soft, it's hooey. There's only things, Blackie...We are going to destroy this house. There won't be anything left when we've finished."

The boys' actions are an act of destruction and antagonism toward the owner, Old Misery, who is completely victimized. For, when he returns from a holiday, he is held hostage in his loo. Old Misery is unable to stop the destruction of his house as he hears the sounds of sawing. The next morning a driver comes for his lorry (truck), and, as he starts to drive, he becomes aware of a voice shouting; it is the victimized Mr. Thomas, the owner of the sole house remaining in the neighborhood. It is too late, however, because the lorry driver has pulled forward, is momentarily halted, and then moves on to the sound of a "long rumbling crash."

One moment the house had stood there with such dignity between the bomb-sites like a man in a top hat, and then, bang, crash, there wasn't anything left—not anything.

The delinquent gang has razed the stately house of Old Misery. London has lost its voice of reason and custom, a respect for dignity, represented by the old house.

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