The Destructors


Greene, Graham


Short Story


Graham Greene was an English writer, journalist, and sometime British spy. Several of his novels--some of which are spy thrillers--have been turned into films, such as The End of the Affair and Our Man in Havana. He also wrote the screenplay for the Orson Welles' classic film, The Third Man. "The Destructors" focuses on a street gang in the ruins of bombed-out London immediately after World War II. The story depicts the accession to leadership of the gang's newest recruit and how he urges the boys on to a horrifyingly methodical act of destruction. The story invites us to consider why, in the wake of devastation, there is sometimes an urge to destroy what is left rather than preserve it.

Full Text*

*CCR cannot guarantee the accuracy or continued availability of this online text. Please notify us if you encounter any problems.


The Civically Engaged Reader, eds. Davis & Lynn, (Great Books Foundation, 2006).




Identity and CommunityLeadership and Responsibility

Big Questions

What do people gain or lose from joining a group or a community?What makes a community strong? What makes it weak?How does a person become a leader?What do we expect from the people we lead? What do we expect from our own leaders?


Civically Engaged Reader

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. How does T. become the leader of the gang? How do the members recognize the shift in leadership?
  2. Why does T. wish to destroy the house? Why do the other children follow him?
  3. How and why does the leadership of the gang shift back to Blackie? What is meant when we are later told, "The questions of leadership no longer concerned the gang"?
  4. In what ways can destruction be creation? What, if anything, is the gang creating by destroying Old Misery’s house?
  5. How are leaders determined? Who decides when a shift in leadership is needed?
  6. Have the children in the gang done anything useful for their community? Why or why not?
  7. How do we know when something has outlived its usefulness? Who has the final say?
Back to Resources