The Destructors by Graham Greene

In The Destructors by Graham Greene we have the theme of control, pride, power, acceptance, change, jealousy and insecurity. Set in the 1950s the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Greene may be exploring the theme of control. When Blackie loses leadership of the gang and Trever or T. replaces him the reader senses that T. has longed for the opportunity to become leader of the gang. If anything T. wishes to be in control of the gang. It is also interesting that Blackie does not allow his pride to get in the way when he loses control of the gang. Rather he willingly accepts that T. is the new leader and is enthusiastic about T.’s plan to destroy Mr. Thomas’ home. Where many would feel defeated by the loss of power Blackie doesn’t. He accepts that he is no longer the leader of the gang. As to why T. wishes to destroy Mr. Thomas’ home is difficult to say. Though some critics might suggest that T. is no more than a vandal it may be important to remember that T.’s life has changed. No longer is his father an architect and there is a sense that T.’s family have had to downgrade in life. It is possible that T. through jealousy wishes to see someone else suffer. That someone else being Mr. Thomas. A harmless old man who keeps to himself.

The logic of the gang is also interesting. They are fully aware that what they are doing is wrong yet believe that they will not go to prison for breaking things. They feel assured that they will only go to prison for robbing things. Something they have no intention of doing. The fact that T. doesn’t keep the money that he finds in the house is also interesting as it highlights to the reader just how destructive in nature T. is. He is driven by a desire to destroy rather than steal. Something which he believes is okay to do. Again this may be due to the fact that T.’s life has changed dramatically since he moved into Wormsley Common with his family. If anything T. may be insecure. Even though his outward appearance is one of leadership and an ability to control others. T. nonetheless may not have adapted well to the transition from his old life and neighbourhood to Wormsley Common. Rather than being the leader that the rest of the gang support. T. may be somewhat lost in life. Unable to let go of the life he had before moving to Wormsley Common.

How fickle the other members of the gang can be is also noticeable by Summers calling T. Trevor. Something that is noticeable when T. pleads with the other members of the gang to finish off the destruction of Mr. Thomas’ house. It is as though T. realises that he is losing control of the gang. That his leadership is no more. It is also interesting that Blackie immediately steps back into the role of leader of the gang when he sees that T. has lost the respect of the other members of the gang. What is interesting about T.s loss of leadership is the fact that the reader senses that T. himself no longer has anything to define himself by. As a person he is lost. It is as though his identity has shifted. Where he was comfortable when he was leader of the gang (and giving orders) he no longer has the same presence. Though it was his idea to destroy Mr Thomas’ home the other gang members no longer support him. There main goal is to finish off the job they started whether T. is leader or not.

The end of the story is also interesting as Greene manages to add humour to what is a serious matter. The lorry driver considers it funny that the walls of Mr Thomas’ home have fallen down and that Mr Thomas was in the lavatory when it occurred. However though Greene is adding humour it is not lost on the reader just how serious affairs are. A man’s life has been dramatically changed by the whim of an insecure boy (T.). As mentioned Mr Thomas is a harmless old man who minds his own business. It just happens that T. through his own insecurities wanted Mr Thomas to know what it was like not to have a home. Possibly because T. has lost his home and the life he was accustomed to prior to moving to Wormsley Common. Throughout the story T. has acted selfishly and not thought about the consequences of his actions. He has disrupted another person’s life because he feels uncomfortable about his own life. Rather than dealing with the change that has occurred in his life. T. wishes for others to feel as he does. His old life was destroyed so he wants Mr Thomas to feel what destruction feels like. If anything Mr Thomas is the victim of T.’s inability to accept change.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "The Destructors by Graham Greene." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 14 Dec. 2017. Web.


  • I enjoyed your analysis and your perspective on T. I read this one a while ago and remember finding the unrelenting methodical destruction chilling. Also how soon it happens after WWII in a neighborhood already damaged by the blitz.

  • I remember reading this story for a literature class in school. It offended me for several reasons. The first was the pure evil nature of the leader and his gang, wanting to needlessly destroy. Then the destruction of not only valuable property, but a man’s home, and a man that is not bothering the gang or anyone else and so is an innocent victim. Last, the ides of destroying a beautiful old house designed by a legendary architect, one that survived the war only to fall to a gang of vermin that nobody will likely miss when they are gone.

    I know it’s fiction, and an imagined vehicle for the author to portray many facets of human nature. But still I didn’t like it and have never forgotten how much I disliked it.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I know how you feel Robert. I’ve come across a few stories that I’ve read that I hope I never have to read again.

      • I have just read the whole story in school and there is a test in it tomorrow and I am the one who reading this in 2019 lol

    • I know I thought I would like the story because I heard that it was dystopian, but I simply didn’t agree with the protagonist. No matter how much they hated the upper class and their materialistic behavior is no reason to destroy a whole house. It was an understatement to say that it was not personal because that old man has to deal with being homeless now. T. used his power to the extreme like he would not like to be used on him. Maybe the author wanted us to see his reckless actions, but it hurt and bothered me to read this. I only did it for school. The story was well narrated; I just wanted some form of punishment for T., and I would have liked the story.

  • I find it interesting that blackie didn’t like how T called the house beautiful. I think that’s when T decides to destroy the house.

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