Is Graham Greene’s “The Destructors” Commercial or Literary Fiction?

1. Introduction

Graham Greene’s “The Destructors” has elicited debate on whether it is commercial or literary fiction. It is more bent towards a commercial than literal fiction. In this essay, I will firstly define the terms 'commercial fiction' and 'literary fiction'. Then, I will evaluate Greene’s “The Destructors” in relation to these definitions and come to a conclusion accordingly.

2. What is commercial fiction?

Commercial fiction is also known as genre fiction or popular fiction. It is normally associated with entertainment and escapism. This means that the primary purpose of commercial fiction is to entertain the reader, rather than to make a philosophical or political statement. Commercial fiction often has a formulaic plot which can be predicted by the reader. This makes it easy to read and enjoyable, as the reader knows what to expect. However, this can also make it seem shallow and unoriginal.

3. What is literary fiction?

Literary fiction is the opposite of commercial fiction. It is often seen as more 'highbrow' and 'intellectual'. Literary fiction is not just about entertainment, but also about making a point or raising awareness about important issues. The language used in literary fiction is often more complex and flowery than in commercial fiction, as writers try to create beautiful prose. This can make literary fiction more difficult to read, but also more rewarding.

4. Greene’s “The Destructors” as commercial fiction

Greene’s “The Destructors” can be seen as commercial fiction for several reasons. Firstly, it is set in post-WWII England, which was a time of great change and upheaval. This meant that people were looking for stories which would take their minds off the reality of their lives. “The Destructors” does this by telling the story of a group of young boys who destruction for destruction’s sake. The boys are not trying to make any sort of statement, they are simply trying to have fun and let off steam. This makes the story light-hearted and easy to read, even though it is technically about a very dark subject matter.

Secondly, “The Destructors” is full of figurative language and paradoxes which make it entertaining to read. For example, the narrator says that Trevor Wormley was 'the only destroyer with a future' (Greene, p.3). This is a paradox because Trevor is destroying everything in sight, so how can he have a future? This kind of language makes “The Destructors” more interesting to read than a straightforward account of the boys’ destruction spree would be.

Thirdly, “The Destructors” has a high level of entertainment value. This is because it is full of suspense and surprises. For example, the reader does not know what the boys are going to destroy next, or what will happen to them when they are caught by the police. This keeps the reader hooked until the very end of the story.

5. Greene’s “The Destructors” as literary fiction

Greene’s “The Destructors” can also be seen as literary fiction. This is because it is set in post-WWII England and deals with some of the issues which were affecting the country at the time. For example, the story is about young boys who are acting out because they are angry and frustrated with their lives. This is a direct result of the war, which has left them feeling lost and directionless. In this way, “The Destructors” can be seen as a commentary on the state of post-war England.

Furthermore, “The Destructors” uses complex figurative language which makes it more challenging to read than commercial fiction. For example, the narrator describes the boys as 'angels of destruction' (Greene, p.3). This is a metaphor which creates a vivid image in the reader’s mind, but which is also open to interpretation. What does it mean to be an 'angel of destruction'? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? The reader is left to make their own judgement.

Finally, “The Destructors” is not just about entertainment, but also about making a point. The story asks important questions about why we destroy things and what the consequences of our actions might be. For example, at the end of the story, Mr Thomas says that 'you can't destroy something without creating something else' (Greene, p.11). This is a deep and thought-provoking statement which makes the reader question their own motivations for destruction.

6. Conclusion

In conclusion, Greene’s “The Destructors” is more bent towards commercial than literary fiction. This is because it is primarily concerned with entertainment and escapism, rather than with making a philosophical or political statement. However, “The Destructors” does have some elements of literary fiction, such as its use of figurative language and its commentary on post-war England. Ultimately, whether you see “The Destructors” as commercial or literary fiction will depend on your own personal preferences.


Commercial fiction is typically plot-driven and focuses on entertainment value, while literary fiction is usually character-driven and focuses on more complex themes.

"The Destructors" is more commercial than literary because it has a simple plot that is easy to follow, and the characters are not as developed as they might be in a literary work. The story also has a fairly happy ending, which is more typical of commercial fiction. However, the story does have some literary elements, such as its focus on human nature and the way the characters change over the course of the story.

I think Greene chose to write a more commercial story because he wanted to reach a wider audience. He was successful in straddling the line between the two genres because he was able to maintain some of the complex themes from literary fiction while still keeping the story entertaining enough for a mass audience.

I think the most important aspect of determining the genre classification of "The Destructors" is its plot. The fact that it is relatively simple and easy to follow makes it more likely to be classified as commercial fiction, even though there are some literary elements present as well. ["Commercial fiction is typically plot-driven and focuses on entertainment value, while literary fiction is usually character-driven and emphasizes themes and ideas over entertainment.",""The Destructors" is more commercial than literary in that it has a fast-paced, action-packed plot with fairly one-dimensional characters. It is less focused on exploring deep themes or ideas, and more concerned with entertaining the reader.","However, "The Destructors" is also more literary than commercial in its use of symbolism and allegory. The story goes beyond simply entertaining the reader, and tries to say something deeper about human nature and the world we live in.","Greene likely chose to write a more commercial story because he felt that it would have a wider appeal and be more accessible to readers. He may have also thought that a purely literary story would be too challenging or dense for most people to enjoy.","I think Greene was successful in straddling the line between the two genres, as "The Destructors" is both an enjoyable read and has something important to say about the human condition.","I believe the most important aspect of the story in determining its genre classification is its style; specifically, the way Greene uses symbols and allegory to explore deeper themes beneath the surface of the plot."]