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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:
How does Red Whelan's fate reverberate down through the generations of the Tierney family? What did you think the author was trying to say about sacrifice through this character?

Created: 09/01/18

Replies: 4

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

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1584

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How does Red Whelan's fate reverberate down through the generations of the Tierney family? What did you think the author was trying to say about sacrifice through this character?

How does Red Whelan's fate reverberate down through the generations of the Tierney family? What did you think the author was trying to say about sacrifice through this character?


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: How does Red Whelan's fate reverberate down through the generations of the Tierney family? What did you think the author was trying to say about sacrifice through this character?

Red Whelan is as interesting a character in this novel as his name implies. He is the man who took the place of Patrick Tierney's grandfather in the war. Because he went to war in place of Grandfather Tierney, Patrick's father, Michael, explains to his son - most likely - that accounts for his being born, and likewise for his son, Patrick, being born. I had not known it was possible to fill a space for someone who has been called to serve, but apparently it was not only possible but common at that time in history. While Michael did not know his father and was not on good terms with him, he did house Red Whelan for much of his life. Is the author trying to tell us that one good turn deserves another, or is she saying good deeds will always be rewarded? Michael Tierney's children grow up with this man in their house and know him well even though they never knew the man whose place he took during the war - their grandfather.


Posted Sep. 06, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
cathyoc

Join Date: 04/26/17

Posts: 25

RE: How does Red Whelan's fate family? What did you think the author was trying to say about sacrifice through this character?

I thought Red Whelan was a very interesting character. He served as a constant reminder to the family that he had given up his life for them, and in this way claimed the life of Aunt Rose as his caretaker. This seemed to fit in with the overall theme of the book that each happiness had to be paid for with suffering.


Posted Sep. 08, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 311

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RE: How does Red Whelan's fate reverberate down through the generations of the Tierney family? What did you think the author was trying to say about sacrifice through this character?

Patrick's grandfather actually took advantage of a very common practice at the time of "representative recruit". If you had the money - G Cleveland, John D Rockefeller and Abraham Lincoln - all took advantage of this practice. So grandfather did nothing that should have caused him such guilt. A guilt that he passed on to his children and they to their children. Most likely the grandfather's guilt was survivor's guilt. He lived but Red Whelan was seriously wounded. Red was not a nice man, as far as I could understand, he was a user. He used a young child, Rose, until she had no life left, but his life. He even showed up at grandfather's funeral dressed in his uniform, lest anyone forget what he had done. It wasn't like he did it out of the kindness of his heart, he was paid for it. It was his job, and the risk he took. He just happened to find a man like grandfather, who was probably raised on Irish guilt and was able to take advantage of him for the rest of his life. (The monkey on his back). From son to son this guilt continued, until we see Patrick with the same feeling of guilt, superstition and fear. I think, or hope what Alice McDermott wanted us to take away from this character was to be careful what images and feelings we are holding on to and passing down. It wasn't a religious guilt or sacrifice, it stemmed strictly from greed, Red's and grandfather's.


Posted Sep. 20, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
scgirl

Join Date: 06/05/18

Posts: 40

RE: How does Red Whelan's fate reverberate down through the generations of the Tierney family? What did you think the author was trying to say about sacrifice through this character?

I almost felt that this was an unnecessary part of the plot. I don't know that it added anything to the story. The more poignant part of the Tierney story to me was that Mr. Tierney (grandfather) did not approve of Liz (Patrick's mother) and that is what caused the break in the relationship. Taking in Rose after Red Whelan's death perhaps relieved Patrick's father of the guilt he felt for severing the relationship.


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