Before T. becomes the leader of the Wormsley Common gang, Blackie is its head. He is described as a just leader who is not jealous and wants to keep the group intact. He also distrusts anything having to do with the upper class. As the gang’s leader, Blackie suggests such activities as seeing how many free bus rides they can sneak and breaking into Old Misery’s house without stealing anything.
When the gang sides with T. instead of Blackie, Blackie initially feels betrayed and privately sulks. He then decides that if the gang is going to succeed in the feat of destroying the house, he wants to be a part of it for the fame. Once he rejoins the group, he is fully committed to T.’s leadership and to contributing to the destruction of the house. In fact, when the gang’s confidence in T.’s leadership falters, Blackie pulls the group back together. This demonstrates that the group as a whole is more important to him than the personal glory of being the leader.
At the end of the story, an unsuspecting driver finally brings down the house. The driver’s truck is tied to the gutted house so that when he pulls out of the adjacent parking lot, the entire house crumbles.
At first, the driver is astonished and confused, but once he realizes what has happened, he responds with a fit of laughter. Even when Mr. Thomas faces him and asks him how he can laugh, the driver is unable to control himself.
Joe is a member of the Wormsley Common gang. He is simply described as a ”fat boy,” and he is the first to vote in favor of T.’s plan to destroy the house.
A member of the Wormsley Common gang, Mike is the only one who is surprised when T. becomes the leader. Mike has always been easily surprised and gullible; when he was nine, he believed someone who told him that if he did not keep his mouth shut, he would get a frog in it.
Summers is the only member of the gang who is called by his last name. He is a thin boy who is a follower. When, on the second day, he complains that the destruction of the house is too much like work, he is easily talked into staying and helping.
Trevor, who goes by T., is the new leader of the Wormsley Common gang. He is fifteen years old and has gray eyes. He is a member of the gang all summer before taking leadership in August, when he suggests a dramatic change in the gang’s activities. His father, an architect, has recently lost social ranking, and his mother has an air of snobbery about her. If T. had seemed like an easy target to the boys, they would have teased him for these things in the beginning.
T. initially says very little when the gang meets, but as he positions himself to take leadership, he talks more. He intrigues the gang with his plan to pull down Mr. Thomas’ house, a feat unparalleled in the gang’s history. The unprecedented plan, coupled with the air of intrigue surrounding T., makes the boys in the gang eager to accept his plan.
Mr. Thomas, who is called Old Misery by the boys in the gang, is an old man who lives in one of the last standing houses in its neighborhood. He was once a builder and decorator but now lives alone, emerging once every week to buy groceries. While he expects his property to be respected by the boys, he is not so disagreeable that he refuses to allow the boys on his land or to use his outdoor bathroom.
Mr. Thomas is nai’ve about the ways of the boys. He never expects that they will regard his offer of chocolates with suspicion, and he certainly never imagines that when he agrees to show T. around his house, T. will betray him. Mr. Thomas believes that the old ways, in which youth respected their elders, are still alive. By the end of the story, however, he realizes that he was terribly misguided.
Thomas E. Barden – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 14, Graham Greene – Published by Gale Cengage Learning.