Destructors - By Graham Greene



By Graham Greene




The story takes place in Great Britain, more precisely somewhere in London.

It happens on a Bank Holiday during the second world war.

The most important persons are the members of a gang called the Wormsley Common Gang. Their leader is a boy whose name is Blackie.

The boy who has been admitted in the gang as the latest is Trevor. When Trevor says his name, everybody laughs. The gang calls him only T. , so everybody has no excuse to laugh at it. T. is a very silent person who almost only says 'yes' or 'no'.

Last but not least, there is an old man, Mr.Thomas.The gang has given him the name 'Old Misery'. He lives in his ramshackle house, which has been damaged by a bomb. But Old Misery is too mean to spend money on it. That is why he is called like this by the gang.


One morning, the gang meets in an impromptu car park. T. isn't there, but the others begin with the usual voting about the day's exploit. A bit later, he joins them and to the others' amazement, he begins to tell them that he has been at Old Misery's. He recounts that he rang the bell and that he said to Old Misery he wanted to see his house. After that Old Misery showed him his old house . He tells them he has found out that Old Misery is going to be away on Bank Holiday.

Blackie proposes they could break in the house and steal something. But T. has a better idea: He says that they will destroy it! And they will do it so that no one can see anything from outside.

From now on, T. is the leader of the gang, Blackie's leadership has come to an end.

T. tells everybody, what he has to bring along the next day. When they want to begin the destruction. They need saws, screwdrivers, hammers and much more. T. gives orders and it seems as if he had carried this plan with him his whole life long and as if he would bring it to light now.

The next day, it is a Sunday, everybody comes punctually to Old Misery's house except Blackie. He climbs up the wall, which surrounds Old Misery's house and jumps into the garden. When he gets closer, he can clearly hear the noise of his working friends.

The house's interior is carefully demolished without touching the outer walls. A boy is heaving up the parquet blocks, another is clipping wires. Others on the other hand are sawing up the banister. In the kitchen, the china, bottles and glasses are smashed. Drawers are turned out and all the papers, which the boys can find, are tired up in every room. In the bedroom, a boy opens the pillows and tears up the sheets.

Behind closed shutters, the boys are at work and after a lunch break it is going on until the evening. Then the first step of damaging is finished.

When only Blackie and T. are in the house, T. shows Blackie what he has found in a mattress Old Misery's savings. Instead of sharing them, the two boys burn each note one after the other. T. says to Blackie that they don't want to be thieves and that he doesn't hate Old Misery because this destruction wouldn't be funny if he hated this man.

The next day, the serious destruction takes place and in the evening, there are more or less only the outer walls. The house is hollowed out and somehow an exhilaration seizes the boys as they look down from high up in the great hollow of the house.

The ground floor is filled with water because it is raining and the water is getting in and also because the gang has opened the taps.

Suddenly, a boy called Mike comes along and he says that Old Misery is on his way home. He adds that he is coming earlier because the weather is so bad. In this excitement, T. loses his authority. Somebody calls him ' Trevor ', but the gang has no time to laugh because Blackie comes to help him and begins to organise the following acts. Mike runs to the loo, which is in the garden and hides in there.

Old Misery comes limping to the house. To his house, which he believes so secure from destruction. T. runs to meet him and begs Old Misery to save a boy from his loo, who can't come out anymore. First, Mr. Thomas is surprised and suspicious because he can't understand why this boy has gone to his loo. But then T. can persuade him to get over his own wall in the garden. T. and Old Misery can already hear Mike crying for help. Old Misery carefully goes to the loo and on the way he says that his horoscope said yesterday that he should abstain from any dealings in the first half of the week and that there would be danger of serious crash.

Mr. Thomas opens the door of the loo, Mike gets out and suddenly a hand pushes Old Misery. He falls, the door slams and somebody turns the key. Somebody says to him that they won't do anything to him if he stays quiet.

Mr. Thomas remembers that in the car-park there is only one lorry standing and he feels certain that the driver will only come to fetch it tomorrow. He knows that nobody will hear him if he cries for help. After a while, he hears sounds which come from the house and through an opening, he sees the light of a candle shimmering through the shutters. Are there burglars in his house?

After Mike has gone home, the others are still working. At the end, the house stands balanced on a few inches of mortar between the damp course and the bricks.

Somebody brings Mr Thomas something to eat and says that they want him to be comfortable this night. The voice says he wouldn't be comfortable in his house, not now. Mr Thomas is confused and frightened. He doesn't understand anything.

The next day at seven o'clock, the lorry driver comes to fetch his lorry. Vaguely, he can hear a voice crying, but he takes no notice of it.

He drives a bit backwards and the lorry touches the big wooden shore which is supporting Mr Thomas's house.

When he drives forward, something pulls from behind. The driver hears a loud crash. Suddenly, bricks are falling on the lorry, stones are beating down on the roof of the cab. The driver puts on his brakes and when he climbs out, the whole landscape has changed. Beside the car-park, there is only a hill of rubble, there is no house.

The driver hears again the cries of somebody and notices that they are coming from the building which is the nearest thing to a house in this moment. So the driver rescues Mr Thomas who is totally confused and he asks after his house. The driver begins to laugh. There is really nothing left. One moment ago, the house stood with dignity between the bomb-sites and now there are only bricks and stones lying around.

The driver says to Mr Thomas that he can't help laughing. He adds that it is nothing personal against Mr Thomas, but that he finds it funny.



There is the question:' Why has T. this idea of destruction, how can he do such a thing?'

My interpretation is the following:

T's father was an architect, like Wren who built Old Misery's house and also the famous St. Paul's cathedral in London. But now, T.'s father isn't an architect anymore, he is only a clerk. The narrator says that T.'s father has 'come down in the world'.

I think, T.'s father has lost his job. Nobody would voluntarily be a simple clerk, if he is an architect.

So, something strange happened. Maybe jealousy might be a motive. Wren was a successful architect and it could be that T.'s father had no success in his job. Now, he is furious at Wren and T. has noticed it.

Therefore T. wants to take an indirect revenge on Wren by destroying a house which Wren built. Or perhaps T.'s father has even forced his son to do it.

I liked to read the story although I had to look up words, first of all the words , which describe the acts of destruction and those which refer to the construction of houses.

But otherwise, the story reads very fluently. The end is sad and also a bit stupid because the lorry driver is just laughing.

But I think stories must not always have a happy-ending and this story can really be recommended.

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