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Age of Iron

Age of Iron


by J.M. Coetzee

Mrs. Curren Timeline and Summary

  • Mrs. Curren starts her letter by explaining that two big things happened at almost the very same time: she found out that her cancer was terminal, and a random homeless guy started camping out next to her house.
  • She tells the man that he can't stay there.
  • When the man comes back, she invites him in and makes him a sandwich.
  • Mrs. Curren goes out shopping but has a huge attack of pain. The man helps her into her house.
  • Mrs. Curren tells him about her daughter.
  • She plays piano for him.
  • Mrs. Curren asks the man if he can send her letters to her daughter.
  • Mrs. Curren and Florence talk about the state of the schools and about what childhood is like now in South Africa.
  • Mrs. Curren gets upset when Bheki's friend and Vercueil start fighting. She asks Florence who this troublesome kid is.
  • She tells Florence it's wrong to let Bheki and his friend get away with their disrespectful behavior. Florence snaps back at her about how it's the fault of white people.
  • Mrs. Curren notices that some policemen have been watching her house. She tells them that Bheki and his friend have her permission to be there, so they have nothing to worry about.
  • Mrs. Curren tells Florence that Bheki's friend can't stay because he's going to get Bheki in trouble with the police.
  • She confronts Bheki about how he didn't ask for her permission to sleep in her car.
  • Mrs. Curren freaks out about how this random assortment of people is taking over her house as though she were already dead.
  • Mrs. Curren sees Bheki and his friend get in an accident.
  • She pinches Bheki's friend's wound shut.
  • Mrs. Curren yells at Florence for not sticking around after Bheki's friend got hurt.
  • Mrs. Curren tells Bheki that she's going to file a complaint with the police.
  • Mrs. Curren calls the hospital. They say that there's no record of Bheki's friend.
  • Mrs. Curren, Vercueil, Bheki, and Florence go to the hospital to find Bheki's friend.
  • She tells Vercueil that her daughter doesn't know that she's dying. Vercueil tells her to fix that, pronto.
  • Mrs. Curren thinks about how great it is to talk with Vercueil.
  • She and Vercueil go to visit Bheki's friend. She thinks about how they hate each other.
  • Mrs. Curren and Vercueil watch TV together.
  • She tries to press charges against the two police officers, but she can't because she wasn't directly affected by their actions.
  • When someone calls Mrs. Curren's house with bad news about Bheki, Mrs. Curren tells Florence she'll go with her to Gugulethu.
  • Mr. Thabane joins Mrs. Curren and Florence in the hunt to find Bheki.
  • She witnesses a scene of total chaos. Some girl knocks her to the ground.
  • Mrs. Curren says she wants to go home, and then ends up really poorly articulating her views on what's going on around her.
  • Mrs. Curren sees Bheki's dead body laid out on the ground.
  • She goes home, feeling like she'll never be warm again.
  • Mrs. Curren goes out for a drive with Vercueil. When they get back, some ladies are there collecting Florence's things. She gives them a check.
  • The next day, they go out for a ride again. Vercueil asks her if she plans to kill herself. She says yes but can't tell if she actually wants to go through with it at that point.
  • Vercueil offers her a few different options for killing herself.
  • Mrs. Curren decides not to go through with suicide after all. Vercueil buys her some booze.
  • When Vercueil encourages her to get totally wasted, Mrs. Curren gets upset and demands that he get out of her car.
  • She worries about how she has no choice but to trust Vercueil.
  • A few days pass. Mrs. Curren tries to go shopping but finds herself in terrible pain.
  • Mrs. Curren wakes up one night to find Bheki's friend in her kitchen. She tells him that Bheki is dead, but he doesn't seem to get it.
  • The next day she cleans and dresses the boy's wound. She reiterates that Bheki is dead. Then she waxes philosophic about what's going on in South Africa these days.
  • She learns that the boy's name is John – though, we should also point out, she doesn't believe that that's his name.
  • Later, she notices that John is up to something weird in Florence's room. He has pulled up one of the floorboards and seems to be hiding something.
  • Mrs. Curren tries to call Florence, but she gets Mr. Thabane instead. He tells her he can't take John in at the moment.
  • The police show up at Mrs. Curren's house looking for John. Mrs. Curren tells them not to hurt the kid.
  • She goes to talk to John. She promises not to let them hurt him, but she knows that his fate is pretty much sealed.
  • Mrs. Curren struggles with the officers, who are trying to get her out of the house and out of their way. She flips out when she realizes that they've killed John.
  • Mrs. Curren feels like she can't go back into her house. She wanders off with a pink quilt wrapped around her and falls asleep under a bridge.
  • Some kids come and bother Mrs. Curren. They're looking for money.
  • Vercueil returns. He finds Mrs. Curren under the bridge. He picks her up and starts to carry her home. She doesn't want to go back there, though.
  • Vercueil takes Mrs. Curren to a wooded area and they sleep on a piece of cardboard.
  • She tells Vercueil everything that happened to her.
  • They go home.
  • When they get there, Mrs. Curren realizes that someone else is there – it's a police officer. He grills her about John and the weapons he was stashing.
  • After the officer leaves, Mrs. Curren calls Mr. Thabane to tell him to be careful.
  • Mrs. Curren has a dream about Florence and her daughters. In her dream, Mrs. Curren is covered in flames. She tells Vercueil about her dream.
  • Mrs. Curren's medications start to have weird effects on her. She asks the doctor for new medicine.
  • Mrs. Curren asks Vercueil why he chose her of all people.
  • Vercueil offers to help Mrs. Curren die. He puts his hands around her throat. She starts crying.
  • Mrs. Curren asks Vercueil if she can sleep with his dog for warmth. She says he can sleep there, too.
  • Vercueil tells Mrs. Curren more of his back-story. She worries about what'll happen to him after she dies.
  • Mrs. Curren tells Vercueil about Latin.
  • She asks him if he wants to go to the U.S. to deliver her papers to her daughter in person.
  • One morning, Mrs. Curren wakes up feeling cold. She asks Vercueil if it is "time." He doesn't respond, but gets into bed with her and holds her in a cold embrace – and that's it.