In Graham Greene's post World War II tale, Trevor is the protagonist, who represents the nihilistic attitudes and behavior prevalent in the period after the destruction of London. His conflict develops from his rejection of everything that pre-War London, represented by Old Misery, valued.
The son of an architect, now only a clerk, Trevor has moved into a neighborhood quite below the social status to which his parents are accustomed. Since the boys with whom he becomes acquainted are not of his ilk, he vies for the top position in the gang by devising a plan to destroy the beautiful, albeit "crippled" home of Old Misery, a former builder himself. This act of destruction committed while Misery, who is on a three-day bank holiday, is not without a creative process as T, (whose aristocratic name has been cut) has determined that the gang will take it apart from the inside "like worms." While he orders the destruction of the interior and all its contents, T. yet retains some ethics: He does not want any theft; in fact, he orders Old Misery's banknotes burned and, later, food taken to Mr. Thomas, who has been locked in his outdoor lavatory [loo]. Nevertheless, the boys are devoid of any sympathy or other genuine feelings about Mr. Thomas's loss of home. As a result, they enter into conflict with many of the pre-war, old world moral issues represented by Old Misery; that is, those that forbid delinquency, trespass, and destruction.