Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood: Torching the Dusties

Stone Mattress

Torching the Dusties is the closing ‘wicked’ tale in Stone Mattress. The main protagonist is Wilma, an old widow suffering from Charles Bonnet’s syndrome; a common condition among elderly people with weak eyesight. Tobias, Wilma’s friend fulfills the role of her eyes in Ambrosia Manor, the comfortable assisted living facility where they both live. One day Tobias describes to Wilma how a group of young people is picketing near the gates of Ambrosia Manor, holding signs that say “Time to Go.”

The group of young people turns out to be belonging to an international movement named “Our Turn.” They are an anti-elderly lot who actively seek to wipe out “the parasitic dead wood at the top” and it does not seem like even the authorities want to stand in their way. So what will happen to Wilma, Tobias, and the rest of the elderly citizens when Our Turn lays siege to Ambrosia Manor?

Reading Torching the Dusties was a scary experience for me because I am aware that most of the countries will be impacted by aging population in near future. When economy puts pressure on younger generations, will they turn into an angry mob and go assaulting the elderly? Given the chaos we have witnessed in the past few years it does not seem far stretched to me!

In Torching the Dusties, at a panel discussion that takes place soon after the attacks on seniors in retirement homes, some panelists seem to back the idea that the elderly should leave the world for good when they say historically in many societies “the elderly used to bow out gracefully to make room for young mouths by walking into the snow or being carried up mountainsides and left there.” Will people actually go around trying to justify the brutal annihilation of generations by using preposterous arguments? It is even twisted imagine. 😐

While it is true that growing aging populations will take its toll on the society, it is not as if we have not been warned. We all know this day would come. So I believe it is up to us as a society to ensure Torching the Dusties will only be a ‘cautionary tale’ and take measures from now on to prevent it from becoming our reality…



  1. Those short stories sound intriguing. I just finished my first book by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale. It was not a happy story, more like another dystopian glimpse into the future, but it was so well conceived and written.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you would write a review! I have read eight books by Atwood, but The Handmaid’s Tale is not one of them. Now I think I will wait till the TV series comes. Then I can read the book and binge-watch the entire series! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t heard of this collection either, it sounds intense! Time to add it to the list


    1. Yes, it is a brilliant collection of ‘dark stories’! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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