Analysis of “The Destructors”

“The Destructors,” the most ambiguous of the tales, appears at first reading to employ gratuitous malice as its theme, but upon reflection the story is more properly understood as an absurdist comment on the concepts of justice, natural law, and the creative act. As the boys determine to destroy, systematically and ruthlessly, the only building in their neighborhood left standing by the blitz, the reader becomes aware that the energy expended in the act of total destruction is in fact liberating.That Old Misery’s house alone was spared by the blitz becomes an unacceptable absurdity to the boys, who deal it the same kind of rude justice that the bombs had rendered the other houses of the block. They intend no bodily harm to Old Misery, although in the course of their demolition they burn his savings and deprive him of a bed on which to rest his rheumatic bones. His unhappiness becomes an irrelevant consequence of the justice the boys are determined to bring about.

Their energy and inventiveness in the destruction of the premises amounts, perversely, to an act of creation. “‘All this hate and love,'” says T, the chief architect of their design, “‘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” (338). All that matters to him and the boys he directs is the disinterested creative action. The story moves with the relentless and inexorable logic of a nightmare.

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