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Key elements of plot development in "The Destructors"

Summary:

The key elements of plot development in "The Destructors" include the formation of the gang, their decision to destroy the house, the meticulous planning and execution of the destruction, and the eventual collapse of the house. These elements highlight themes of war, destruction, and the loss of innocence.

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What is the conflict in "The Destructors"?

I think the conflict here is not between T and Old Misery, or even between T and Blackie. What is truly at issue is brokenness and desolation of England after the war, as contrasted with the values of pre-war Britain. In a sense, T's ascendency to the group's leadership is the result of a need for constructive action. Even Blackie, who at first is bitter over T's rise, realizes that being part of the project to carefully demolish Old Misery's house is more important than his ego. In this sense, the conflict is between the boys and the society that cannot support them, or the difference between the reality in which they have to live, and the expectations that are put on them.

In another sense, the story describes how even the best qualities of people can be turned against themselves. The demolition of the house is a kind of triumph, both of T's leadership, of the teamwork of the boys, and of T's engineering and architectural knowledge. The fact that this work has been done in the service of destroying the one intact house remaining in the village is a kind of bitter twist that suggests that in the new order, British qualities that had been used to build up communities will now be used to tear them down.

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What is the conflict in "The Destructors"?

The conflict or tension in the short story “Destructors” is between creation and destruction. The story takes place in London in a post-war Britain. It is important to note that London had been bombed heavily by the Germans in WWII, hence the context after the war is one of building and, better yet, rebuilding.

The gang of boys, The Wormsley Common Gang, are bent on doing something. The newest member of the gang, Trevor (who is later simply called T.) has an idea. His idea is to destroy a stately house that has not been touched by the German bombings. The house is a venerable 200 year old building owned by a Mr. Thomas.

Once the boys commit to destroy the house, they are meticulous.

The dining-room was stripped of parquet, the skirting was up, the door had been taken off its hinge, and the destroyers had moved up a floor. Streaks of light came in through the closed shutters where they worked with the seriousness of creators - and destruction after all is a form of creation. A kind of imagination had seen this house as it had now become.

This description shows that the boys destroy with the precision and seriousness of creators. There is, of course, a paradox here. Something profound is going on. It would be wrong to think that the boys do this action purely out of mischief or hate. For example, they find money, but they do not take it. And later T. says that he has nothing against Mr. Thomas.

'Of course I don't hate him,' T. said. 'There'd be no fun if I hated him.' The last burning note illuminated his brooding face. 'All this hate and love,' he said, 'it's soft, it’s hooey. There's only things, Blackie,' and he looked round the room crowded with the unfamiliar shadows of half things, broken things, former things. 'I’ll race you home, Blackie,' he said.

Perhaps, the boys act in this way because all they ever saw was destruction. So, even while London is rebuilding, they are destroying. Herein lies the conflict.

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What is the conflict in "The Destructors"?

There is also a strong element of class conflict in the story. The boys of the Wormsley Common gang are poor and working-class. Trevor, or T, originally comes from a fairly prosperous middle-class background. In order to fit in with the other boys in the gang he eggs them on to commit the mindless destruction of Mr. Thomas' house and to burn all his money. In leading the assault on the house, Trevor is finally rejecting his previous middle-class existence. He cannot stand the fact that he no longer has much in the way of material possessions and so feels deep resentment to those who do. His burning of Mr. Thomas' money in the mattress is his way of resolving what is clearly a deep internal conflict between his identity as a member of the Wormsley Common gang and his former self. This inner conflict mirrors the external class conflict between the working-class boys and Mr. Thomas, which manifests itself in the destruction of his property.

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What is the conflict in "The Destructors"?

The conflict of the story "The Destructors" is creation versus destruction. The gang members in the story have grown up seeing the results of the blitz, the Nazi destruction of London and other parts of England through bombing. They gather at the beginning of the story at the car-park that is the site of the last bombing of the first blitz, and they set themselves to the task of destroying an old house that was supposedly built by Wren, the famous architect who designed St. Paul's. They choose this house in part because it was so ornately constructed that destroying it will be an act of creativity. As Greene describes their actions, "they worked with the seriousness of creators—and destruction after all is a form of creation." In other words, creation and destruction are two parts of the same process—a process that would have been very real to people in post-war London who created a new city in the parts of the old city that had been destroyed.

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What is the conflict in "The Destructors"?

The conflict of "The Destructors" is primarily man vs. society.  The boys have had their innocence stripped by the events of World War II.  They use their imagination to reconstruct scenes of violence, demonstrating the influence of their environment on them.  The bombed out area in which they meet symbolizes this.  In addition to violence, the boys struggle to assert power and hierarchy, just as wars are fought for this purpose.

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What is the conflict in "The Destructors"?

The first overt conflict to be introduced in "The Destructors" is between Blackie, the gang leader, and Trevor, the new recruit who usurps Blackie's position with his audacious plan to tear down Old Misery's house. It is perhaps first revealed when T, as Trevor prefers to be called, arrives late at the gang's rendezvous point and faces questioning from Blackie.  When the gang votes on whether or not to tear down Old Misery's house, Blackie's leadership comes to an end.

Another more subtle conflict is at work in the story: class conflict between those more highly placed in British society and the working class that the boys represent.  Trevor's father, an architect, has come down in the world and is now a clerk.  "Trevor," a rather posh name, is abandoned in favor of "T," and instead of revering a house designed by noted 17th and 18th century architect Christopher Wren, he is the one who proposes its destruction.  Trevor clearly harbors resentment against the upper class from which his family has fallen.

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What is the conflict in "The Destructors"?

Man vs. Society
The boys' destruction of Old Misery's house is their way of making a statement to society and their neighborhood; it is their way of making a name for themselves and building notoriety.  The Wormsley Common gang does not approve of what the fine, old house represents; their act of destruction can be seen as revenge against a society that has betrayed them. 

Man vs. Environment

Another main conflict within "The Destructors" is the way in which the boys methodically battle the inner workings of the old house.  T employs his technical know how to guide the rest of the gang in their destructive quest to raze the house from the inside out.  The boys physically battle the inner workings of the house with sledge hammers, crowbars, and even their hands, attacking the plumbing, the paneling, the electrical wiring, all in an attempt to bring Old Misery's house down.

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What is the conflict in "The Destructors"?

There are several potential conflicts in "The Destructors." One could be between T. and Blackie, since T. usurps Blackie's leadership of the gang. Another could be between the boys in the gang and Mr. Thomas, who lives in the house the boys decide to demolish. The conflicts don't amount to much, however, because T. is not interested in being "the leader," only in achieving his purpose, and the boys have no problem with Mr. Thomas, either. "Of course I don't hate him," T. says about Mr. Thomas. T.'s point is that "hate" and "love" are irrelevant: as he says, there's "only things."

On another level, the conflict is between T. and society. His father had been an architect but has "come down in the world." T.'s decision to demolish the house, and his knowledge of how to do so, must have, in part, come from his father; the elaborate plan to destroy the house from the inside out is a way of asserting T.'s self-worth and avenging his father.

Another aspect of this conflict is the ending of the story, when the driver tells Mr. Thomas that the destruction of his house is funny. The driver might mean that it is funny in a slapstick sort of way, and the scene does seem like something out of a movie. In a larger sense, though, it is funny is darkly ironic way, since this beautiful house, the only one spared by the German blitz, finally is destroyed, not by the "enemy" but by a gang of little boys. In that sense, the story is about how postwar British society is at war with itself.

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What is the main event in "The Destructors"?

The main event in “The Destructors” is when the boys take apart an old man’s house piece by piece.

The plot of the story centers on a group of teenagers who seem to be bored.  They are gathering in an abandoned lot that used to not be a parking lot, before the blitz in World War II London.  The lack of value placed in human life during the war, their formative years, seems to have shaped the boys’ attitudes.

T. raised his eyes, as gray and disturbed as the drab August day. “We’ll pull it down,” he said. “We’ll destroy it.”

The boys think he is kidding at first.  Yet by raising the point, T has been elevated in their estimation.  He becomes leader.  There is no reason to destroy the house.  The boys have nothing against its decrepit owner, poor Mr. Thomas.  They just do not care.  Mike even says he will be late because he has to go to church!

Streaks of light came in through the closed shutters where they worked with the seriousness of creators—and destruction after all is a form of creation.

The destruction eventually accomplished, the boys move on.  In the end, they have not really accomplished anything.  They have destroyed the old man's house for no reason.

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What is the climax of "The Destructors"?

The climax of the story is when Mr. Thomas, the owner of the house the boys are demolishing, comes home unexpectedly. He had told T. that he would be gone all weekend, but the weather turned, and he returned home while the boys were in the middle of destroying the house.

T. has to come up with something, or his dream of demolishing the house will be ruined. He comes up with the idea of luring Mr. Thomas into his outhouse, then locking him inside, turning him into a prisoner. This is climactic for several reasons.

This is the highest moment in the "action" of the story, the point of most tension, and it marks a significant test for T.'s character: for the first time, he is not in control and has to improvise. Additionally, this moment is a turning point in T.'s conflict with Blackie, whose leadership T. has usurped. Blackie is the one who supports T. when the other boys are about to turn on him; by reasserting his authority, Blackie regains leadership but also makes it possible for T. to salvage his plan. Finally, this moment in the story marks a significant escalation in the "criminality" of the boys' plan. Even though T. does not "hate" Mr. Thomas, he does decide that locking him up is preferable to not completing his project.

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

Remember, the climax of the story is the key scene in the tale - that tense or exciting or terrifying moment when our emotional involvement is greatest. Now we learn what the outcome of the conflict is going to be. To my mind, the climax of "The Destructors", therefore, is when the boys have already advanced greatly on their mission of completely destroying "Old Misery"'s house, but the surprise return of Old Misery threatens the entire project and also T.'s leadership of the gang. Note how the gang is just ready to drop and leave everything and run, but T. insists that they continue:

"Anybody could do this - ". "This" was the shattered hollowed house with nothing left but the walls. Yet walls could be preserved. Facades were valuable. They could build inside again more beautifully than before. This could again be a home.

We see here T.'s obsession with the absolute destruction of the house and his fear that his project might be thwarted. Note too how T. reacts as it appears his plans will come to naught:

T. stood with his back to the rubble like a boxer knocked groggy against the ropes. He had no words as his dreams shook and slid.

Note the simile that compares him to a boxer knocked for six and defeated in the ring. It is only the support of Blackie that brings him round. When they lock Mr. Thomas in his outside toilet it is clear that they have passed the crucial danger - the final destruction can proceed in the denouement of the story.

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