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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:
Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

Created: 09/01/18

Replies: 16

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

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1626

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Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?


Posted Sep. 02, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
veronicaj

Join Date: 05/25/17

Posts: 13

RE: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

Not at all. I disliked her immensely. An unhappy, nasty woman who wanted to make everyone in her life as miserable as she was.


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

Join Date: 06/05/18

Posts: 59

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RE: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

I did not find her at all a sympathetic character, nor did I pity her. She was so mired in her unhappiness that she became a mean person.


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

Join Date: 10/15/14

Posts: 167

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RE: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

In stories where I initially heard about Mrs. Costello, I pitied her, felt sorry for her. As I read on and met her head-on in later stories, experienced her in person, I lost that pity for her, along with any sympathy I may have had. Her illness made her angry and cruel, and that is keenly and sharply revealed and felt. McDermott takes a sickly old woman, bedfast, and brings her to life as clearly and cleverly as Dicken's did with his Scrooge. Unfortunately, she is never granted redemption!


Caring for this sickly individual could potentially be a situation that might lead Sally farther down the path toward becoming a nun - but ironically, it led her to the opposite: to think about and attempt killing her. When Sally became aware of her mother's involvement with Mr. Costello, Mrs. Costello's cruelty and ugliness led her away from a saintly life - not toward it.


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

Join Date: 09/01/11

Posts: 154

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RE: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

When first hearing about Mrs Costello I felt pity and compassion for her. As her story unfolded, it became clear that she would have been a mean spirited person under any circumstances.


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

Join Date: 02/10/16

Posts: 14

RE: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

I felt as though Mrs Costello was in desperate need of mental health services - as was Jim, and probably Sally, too. I thought it was interesting how so much of the sisters' care was of social services nature - they were filling in the gaps left by mental health troubles. We, as a society have come a long way in recognizing and treating illnesses like depression, anxiety, and more - but they still continue to be factors leading to homelessness, poverty, incarceration - all the things the sisters were trying to address.


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

Join Date: 03/20/16

Posts: 17

RE: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

I think Mrs. Costello was mean-spirited and probably had reason to be so. It seems that her husband was badly ignoring her...and yet...when her condition worsened, he gave up his lover to be with her. She was a difficult person to be with, for certain! She never bore her complaints calmly and with grace.


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

Join Date: 05/09/18

Posts: 15

RE: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

This is such a great question! Mrs. Costello was an interesting character. I mostly felt pity for her. It seems as though her unpleasant behavior was driven more from her mental impairments than from being a nasty person.
I also wonder if the author wanted us to dislike Mrs Costello, so we feel more empathy towards Mr Costello's relationship with Annie.


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: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

I did not feel pity or sympathy for this woman. She would have been a bitter, disagreeable person whether she was crippled or not. She was the type of woman who felt persecuted and did not seem to have enough intelligence to realize she could make her life better.


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

Join Date: 06/29/15

Posts: 93

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RE: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

I also didn't pity Mrs. Costello as she was a disagreeable woman. I think she was difficult and used her illness as an excuse. She was lucky the nuns and Sally took care of her.


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

Join Date: 04/18/12

Posts: 45

RE: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

I definitely felt pity for Mrs. Costello, but I didn’t like her. She was a disagreeable person but with her physical problems, I don’t think there was much that could be done. Her personality probably made a bad situation worse. And I can’t help but think that she drove Mr. Costello to Annie.


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

Join Date: 06/03/14

Posts: 17

RE: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

No, my pity and sympathy were more with Mr. Costello who was caught in a tragic life not of his own making.


Posted Sep. 07, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
paulagb

Join Date: 08/16/17

Posts: 40

RE: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

Mrs. Costello is not a sympathetic character because she embodies bitterness and anger at the unfairness of life. We don’t know her before she was unhappy and trapped. We know are conflicted by her relationships with other characters in the book because their actions are those less than perfect individuals. It is most realistic that everyone deals with the situation poorly, but difficult to find a good happening to celebrate.


Posted Sep. 09, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 312

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RE: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

I did not feel sympathy for Mrs. Costello, she would always be the victim no matter what life brought her. I did somewhat pity her, because of her mental condition, but she really did nothing to help herself and enjoyed making others miserable. Unfortunately, this happens even today when we have services to help these people. I guess it is true "God helps those who help themselves." Mrs. Costello was very lucky she had the nuns in her life, we don't have that today. I wanted to add,at this point, about Sally. She was forever changed after Mrs. Costello's death. She was aware that Sister Jeanne did nothing to help this woman, just stood by and let her choke to death. That had to play on her mind for the rest of her life. She also felt like she had killed the woman. I think this more than anything else caused her severe depression.


Posted Sep. 09, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
leslieh

Join Date: 02/03/12

Posts: 6

RE: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

It seemed that Mrs. Costello was dealing with mental and physical issues. It would have take a very special person to care for her and keep calm and patient. I was not raised Catholic, but what these Sisters endured was amazing to me.


Posted Sep. 10, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dottys

Join Date: 09/30/17

Posts: 6

RE: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

I pitied her, but she was so unhappy that it almost seemed as if she wanted everyone around her to be miserable too.


Posted Sep. 10, 2018 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
paulagb

Join Date: 08/16/17

Posts: 40

RE: Did you find Mrs. Costello to be a sympathetic character or did you merely pity her? How was Sally changed by her death?

Mrs. Costello was not and could not be a sympathetic character. Only by disliking her, once we learn her true personality, can we forgive Mr. Costello, Annie and even Sally and Sister Jeanne.


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