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The Ninth Hour


A crowning achievement of one of the finest American writers at work today.
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Discuss The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott:
What is 'the ninth hour' and how is it observed in the convent? Why might Alice McDermott have chosen this title?

Created: 09/01/18

Replies: 8

Posted Sep. 01, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1584

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What is 'the ninth hour' and how is it observed in the convent? Why might Alice McDermott have chosen this title?

What is 'the ninth hour' and how is it observed in the convent? What is its biblical meaning? Why might Alice McDermott have chosen this title?


Posted Sep. 03, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
scgirl

Join Date: 06/05/18

Posts: 34

Re: What is 'the ninth hour' and how is it observed in the convent? Why might Alice McDermott have chosen this title?

There are many meanings of "the ninth hour", the most holy one being "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46) but also it was also at this hour that Elijah prayed to God against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, and God answered by fire from heaven (1 Kings 18:36-39). In convent life it is a time of midafternoon prayer - being the ninth hour after dawn.

So some observations on the title:

It was during that hour that Jim committed suicide as he convinced Annie to go out and do her shopping before darkness fell - the first ninth hour. It was also during that time that Sister St. Savior came, not in response to a call, but rather because as she was heading home she saw things happening at the building - the second ninth hour. Certainly Annie felt forsaken when Jim committed suicide - her third ninth hour.
For Annie, her fourth ninth hour, her relationship with Mr. Costello, came when the nuns were at their mid-afternoon prayer.

I am sure there are other references as well. I think it was a great title for the events in the book.


Posted Sep. 04, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
susiej

Join Date: 10/15/14

Posts: 162

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RE: What is 'the ninth hour' and how is it observed in the convent? Why might Alice McDermott have chosen this title?

I saw the ninth hour primarily as that hour the sisters gathered for prayers in the evening. One of the themes of this novel surely deals with the convent life and the sisters' service to their community as a way of serving their God. These afternoon prayers - always at the ninth hour - are another way in which their devotion to Christ is presented as their awareness of the needs of their community and those they serve on earth.

Like a truly great piece of literature, one continues to think about it long after finishing it, and this question has made me do that for The Ninth Hour. Clearly, the title of the novel refers to more than the hour at which the nuns pray. In our everyday slang we often say that we were "saved by the bell." The Ninth Hour is used in that way also - as symbol for important events which occur during the novel. Things happen "at the ninth hour" and that both affects and effects the course of the lives involved and the plot of the novel. For example, at the ninth hour, with the help of Sister Jeanne, Mrs. Costello dies and Sally's mother is able to finally find peace and contentment with Mr. Costello. There are several examples of symbolism for this title in the novel and the person above has named several.


Posted Sep. 04, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jww

Join Date: 05/31/11

Posts: 148

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RE: What is 'the ninth hour' and how is it observed in the convent? Why might Alice McDermott have chosen this title?

I did not know what "the ninth hour" was other than the afternoon prayer time for the nuns. scgirl gives some very good information and makes it understandable for the title of the book. It is an appropriate title - now that I have more understanding of the reasons. Thanks, scgirl. ::;-)::


Posted Sep. 05, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
tswaine

Join Date: 09/14/11

Posts: 48

RE: What is 'the ninth hour' and how is it observed in the convent? Why might Alice McDermott have chosen this title?

In the book, the ninth hour is when the sisters gathered in the convent for prayer. In the Bible, it is the hours that Jesus died on the cross. I think scgirl above described how McDermott used the ninth hour in her telling the story of the nuns and Annie and Jim's story.


Posted Sep. 11, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
veronicaj

Join Date: 05/25/17

Posts: 9

RE: What is 'the ninth hour' and how is it observed in the convent? Why might Alice McDermott have chosen this title?

Thank you for this question and the great responses. I learned a lot.


Posted Sep. 11, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 311

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RE: What is 'the ninth hour' and how is it observed in the convent? Why might Alice McDermott have chosen this title?

The Ninth Hour in the convent was the time that the nuns came together in the late afternoon and prayed. In Biblical meaning it was the time that Jesus called out from the Cross, "My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me". I think it was an excellent title for the book, as many of the previous writers mentioned. I feel, also, that each of the characters in the book, at some time in their lives felt forsaken. Starting with Jim and his suicide and then Sister St. Saviour certainly felt forsaken by her church and was unable to bury Jim in the best manner. Annie was pregnant and her husband dead. Sally felt forsaken after her awful train ride and then to come home to her mother's indiscretion. Each of the nuns felt forsaken at one time or another in their lives and in dealing with human suffering. A great title.


Posted Sep. 11, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
wandak

Join Date: 04/11/18

Posts: 8

RE: What is 'the ninth hour' and how is it observed in the convent? Why might Alice McDermott have chosen this title?

I believe the Ninth Hour was the time when the nuns came together and prayed in the afternoon. In Biblical times it is when Jesus called out Father why have you forsaken me. It’s an appropriate title as everyone went through a challenge in the story.


Posted Sep. 15, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jeanettel

Join Date: 01/05/12

Posts: 59

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RE: What is 'the ninth hour' and how is it observed in the convent? Why might Alice McDermott have chosen this title?

All the responses above are accurate and specific especially scgirt above. I agree with all.


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