What happens in The Destructors?

In "The Destructors," T. becomes fascinated with a stately old house that has somehow survived the bombings of WWII. When T. gains entry to the house, he convinces the members of his ragtag gang of boys to help him destroy the house one night.

  • T. is just one member of a group of boys led by a character named Blackie. He's quiet and has no authority in the group at first.

  • T. becomes fascinated with the only house on the street that has survived the bombings of WWII intact. He learns that it was built by Christopher Wren, a great British architect.

  • T. then convinces his gang to destroy the house. They do so in spectacular fashion, so that the house's owner, a man known as Old Misery, is left with nothing.

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(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Amid the lingering London ruins of the bombing raids of World War II, a gang of adolescent boys pass their summer holidays carrying out various projects of collective mischief. They are the inhabitants of a neighborhood known as Wormsley Common, one of the poorest sections of the city. They meet and play in a communal parking lot, which adjoins a battered but stately eighteenth century house. The house, more than two hundred years old, stands alone, “like a jagged tooth,” while its neighbors lie in wartime rubble. Blackie, the hitherto undisputed leader, is indirectly challenged one day by the newest recruit, a boy known as “T.” From the time he first joined the group at the beginning of the summer, T. has had little or nothing to say, simply voting “yes” or “no” with the rest of this curiously democratic collection of children.

Now T. intrigues the boys with a plan of diabolic proportions, an enterprise far beyond any that Blackie could conceive. The house that adjoins their parking lot play area, T. has discovered, was built by Christopher Wren, Great Britain’s greatest architect. It was Wren who, in the late seventeenth century, designed and built Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the most notable of London landmarks. The sole inhabitant of the house is the owner, an elderly and somewhat cranky gentleman named Mr. Thomas, whom the boys call “Old Misery.”

T. has developed a curious fixation on the house. He gains entry by the simple device of asking Mr. Thomas if he can see it. Evidently flattered by the child’s interest and attention, Mr. Thomas gives him a tour. The house is clearly an architectural and historical wonder, an enduring remnant of a bygone era when such buildings were the careful work of artistic craftsmen. Amid the antique china and eighteenth century paneling, one particular architectural wonder catches T’s attention: a two-hundred-year-old staircase like a corkscrew, held up by nothing. He has learned that Mr. Thomas will be away on a long weekend holiday. T. proposes that they surreptitiously enter the house during that time and destroy it. Blackie and the others are at first hesitant but also are intrigued with an action so daring and audacious. The boys undertake their task with...

(The entire section is 1,019 words.)