The Westing Game

The Westing Game  
Westing cover.jpg
The 1992 Puffin edition.
Author(s) Ellen Raskin
Illustrator Nathan Althoff
Country USA
Language English
Series NA
Genre(s) Mystery
Publisher E. P. Dutton
Publication date 1978
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 185 pages
ISBN ISBN 0-525-47137-5
ISBN 0-14-240120-X
ISBN 0-14-038664-5
OCLC Number 53292898
LC Classification PZ7.R1817 We 2003

The Westing Game is a 1979 Newbery Medal winning novel by Ellen Raskin.[1] It has been adapted into a movie, released under both the names The Westing Game and Get a Clue. This book centers around the adventures of Sam Westing's sixteen heirs after they are challenged by him to unravel the secret behind his death.

Contents

Plot

Sixteen individuals who are mysteriously chosen to live in the Sunset Towers apartment building on the shore of Lake Michigan come together to hear the will of the self-made millionaire, Samuel W. Westing. The will takes the form of a puzzle, dividing the sixteen heirs into eight pairs, giving each pair a different set of clues, and challenging them to solve the mystery of who killed Sam Westing. As an incentive, each heir is given $10,000 to play the game. Whoever solves the mystery will inherit Sam Westing's 200 million dollar fortune.

Characters

The Hoo family

  • James Shin Hoo

Having failed at his career as an inventor, he started a restaurant called Shin Hoo restaurant in Sunset Towers, but it wasn't so successful. He doesn't relate well to his wife or his son, who he refers to as "the best jock in the universe". He blames Sam Westing for stealing his inventions-namely the disposable paper diaper-and gaining wealth and fame, while Hoo languishes in obscurity. At the end of the story, his creation of comfortable insoles makes him a wealthy inventor, while Grace Wexler takes over his restaurant and turns it into a successful chain.

  • Sun Lin Hoo

Sun Lin comes from China, and speaks very little English, which isolates her from most of the other residents of Sunset Towers. However, her "partner" in the Westing Game, Jake Wexler, talks to her, since he realizes that she will never learn English unless someone speaks it to her. She dreams of going back to China, so she steals valuables from the other residents of Sunset Towers to finance her trip home. In the book's finale, her friendship with Jake pays off; 'Sunny' has become fluent in English and taken over her husband's business. After her husband's death, she finally takes her trip to China before returning home to take over the family business.

  • Doug Hoo

Doug is a high school senior (age 18) who spends much of his spare time running; his dad criticizes him for not studying. At the end of the book, we find out that Doug has become a championship runner, having won two Olympic gold medals. He's now a sports announcer on television.

The Wexler family

  • Dr. Jake Wexler

Jake Wexler is a podiatrist and a bookie. He is a caring father and loving husband, and the only tenant in Sunset Towers to make any attempt to communicate with Madame Hoo other than her own family. He and Madame Hoo are by far the least active team in the game. At the end of the book, Jake becomes chairman of the State Gambling Commission, then the state crime commissioner.

  • Grace Windsor Wexler

Grace is a social climber concerned with presenting herself as sophisticated and upper-class. Grace changed her maiden name from "Windkloppel" to "Windsor" to hide her true origins; this disguises the fact that she is the only heir who truly is a niece of Sam Westing. Using her interior decorating skills, she helps her Westing Game partner, James Hoo, fix up his shop with a new look and title (Hoo's on First), which helps it attract more customers. After Hoo goes into the paper insole business, Grace takes over Hoo's on First and is successful enough to make the one restaurant into a chain.

  • Angela Wexler

Angela is the Wexlers' older daughter of the Wexlers and, as the book begins, is engaged to Dr. Denton Deere. Angela harbors reservations and feels trapped by her mother's expectations. Angela is revealed to be the one who set several bombs in Sunset Towers, having created them to express her resentment. After the book's denouement, Angela ends her engagement to Deere and returns to medical school. Having completed her studies, she meets Dr. Deere again and falls in love with him on her own terms. They finally marry and have a daughter named Alice, who plays chess with her Aunt Turtle in the closing scene of the book.

  • Tabitha Ruth "Turtle" Wexler, T.R. Wexler, or Alice

Largely neglected and brushed aside by her mother in favor of her older sister Angela, Turtle acts out to get attention, often kicking shins, especially when someone touches her braid. She resents her mother's favoritism, but finds a mother figure in her soft-spoken partner, Flora Baumbach, whom she calls "Baba". Turtle put her freedom at risk when she sets off the fourth and final bomb in the Sunset Towers elevator to cover up for Angela. Turtle is the one who solves true mystery and becomes the Westing game's real 'winner.' As an adult, Turtle calls herself T. R. Wexler and becomes a successful lawyer, and also becomes incredibly wealthy as a result of her stock-market savvy.(When she was young she had a crush on Doug Hoo.)She marries Theo Theodorakis, but the couple have no children.

The Theodorakis Family

  • Theo Theodorakis

Doug Hoo's partner and aspiring writer and chess player. Theo is very close to his brother, Chris, and puts his own ambitions aside in order to assist his family save for Chris' operation. Theo deduces that Otis Amber is the key to the solution and focuses his efforts there. Though Theo has a crush on Angela for much of the book, at the end he is married to Turtle. The couple chooses not to have children due to the risk of passing on Chris's disease.

  • Christos Theodorakis

Christos "Chris" is a dedicated birdwatcher. Wheelchair bound by a disease that interrupts his pyramidal tract, he has difficulties with speech and muscle control, which causes him to appear mentally retarded. Other characters often underestimate his intelligence and perceptiveness, and Chris uses his bird-watching as an excuse to keep a sharp eye on the Westing house. His partner is Denton Deere, who introduces him to a new doctor and to new medicines that control his symptoms to give him steady speech and allow him to become a professional ornithologist. At the end of the novel, he is married to Shirley.

  • George Theodorakis

George, the former sweetheart of Violet Westing, is not named an heir. Sandy McSouthers suggests that George was not named an heir because "maybe Sam Westing didn't want to embarrass him (being married and all)." Both of his sons, however, are heirs.

  • Catherine Theodorakis

Catherine, the wife of George Theodorakis, is the first victim of the bomber. When the bomb goes off, Catherine is splashed by tomato sauce. She and her husband are the only two residents of the Sunset Towers not named an heir.

Other characters

  • Sydelle Pulaski

Sydelle is the habitually-overlooked secretary to the president of Schultz Sausages chosen by mistake to be an heir to the Westing fortune; Sybil Pulaski was the intended heir. She uses her secretarial skills to advantage during the book, transcribing the will in shorthand, and tries to call attention to herself by pretending a nonexistent injury and painting her crutches. Sydelle Pulaski is the player who discovers the meaning of the clues distributed to the heirs. At the end, with newfound confidence and the mystique of a millionaire's heiress, she marries Mr. Schultz himself and she and her husband go to live in Hawaii.

  • Otis Amber

Otis appears to be an uncouth sixty-two-year-old delivery 'boy', apparently a minor figure in Sunset Towers, but has hidden secrets, such as working in the local soup kitchen, run by fellow Sunset Tower employee Berthe Erica Crow. He is a private investigator posing as a fourth grade dropout. Judge Ford enlists Otis to find out the true identities of the Westing heirs. He was also hired by Barney Northrup and Sam Westing. At the end of the book, he marries Crow. Some years after the game takes place, he and Crow die within days of each other.

  • Berthe Erica Crow

Known to most tenants only as "Crow", this slight, pinched woman serves as a cleaning woman for Sunset Towers. A deeply religious woman, Crow provides food to the indigent at the Good Salvation Soup Kitchen on Skid Row, and spends her time at Sunset Towers reflecting out loud on sin. Crow's true identity is revealed at the end of the book: she is Sam Westing's wife. "Berthe Erica Crow" is the answer to the Westing game's riddle, and the 'murderer'; Crow names herself as the culprit, but is ultimately not arrested (since she only killed Sam Westing metaphorically). Crow inherits Westing's money and uses half the money to pay Otis Amber to remodel the Good Salvation Soup Kitchen, and gives the rest to Angela Wexler. (After Turtle's trial it is revealed that she didn't win) Crow marries Otis Amber, and the two die years later within a few days of each other. Surprise resident of Sunset Towers.

  • Flora Baumbach

Flora Baumbach is an overly cheery, perky dressmaker who becomes something of a mother figure to her partner, Turtle, who takes to calling her "Baba". She developed her exaggeratedly cheerful disposition in order to cope with tragedy in her own past, including the loss of her mentally retarded daughter Rosalie. Mrs. Baumbach is no help in the actual Westing Game, but becomes a cherished friend to Turtle. She ultimately moves into Turtle and Theo's mansion when they're adults. Her Westing connection is that she was the dressmaker for Violet's wedding dress.

  • Dr. D. Denton Deere

D. Denton Deere, in training to become a plastic surgeon, is engaged to Angela Wexler. He is at first discomfited when he is paired with Chris Theodorakis, but he grows to appreciate the boy's intellect and interest in science, and helps him overcome his disability. He frequently diagnoses others in order to impress Angela, whether it's a real diagnosis or not.

  • Josie-Jo Ford

Judge J.J. Ford is a highly competent judge and the first African-American and first woman to be appointed to the state Supreme Court. She was the daughter of the Westing's maid, and while a child living in the Westing mansion, she played chess with Sam Westing. Westing saw her intelligence and paid for her education. Judge Ford is proud of her accomplishments, but is uncomfortably aware that she owes her progress in part to the influence of the rich, white male Sam Westing. Judge Ford regards the game as Westing's attempt to get revenge on someone who had hurt him, and plays with the intent of determining Westing's real motives. Westing's message to Ford is that she can repay her debt to Westing by 'paying it forward' and financing another young minority person's education, that person being Chris Theodorakis. Judge Ford passes her share of the $10,000 onto Sandy McSouthers for which he posthumously provides a receipt canceling her debt for her education. J.J. Ford uses her proceeds from the sale of her interest in Sunset Towers to pay for Chris Theodorakis's college tuition. Her partner is Sandy McSouthers. She suspected his true identity but was unsure until Theo's tale of playing chess and McSouthers's use of the queen sacrifice, a gambit Sam Westing created.

  • Sandy McSouthers

Sunset Tower's sprightly doorman is always ready with a smile, a colorful anecdote, or a cheerful tune whistled through his chipped tooth, a memento from brawling in his younger days. He has a grudge against Sam Westing, who fired him because he tried to organize the workers. He is 65 years old and is a jolly man. In the end, after Sandy's "death", Turtle realizes that Sandy was Sam Westing all along. She also realizes that he continues to live on as Julian R. Eastman, but keeps this knowledge to herself.

  • Julian R. Eastman

Mr. Eastman is chairman of the board of Westing Paper Products, and takes a keen interest in all of the heirs to Westing's fortune, and is the last alias of Sam Westing. Died of natural causes with Turtle Wexler at his side.

  • Edgar Jennings Plum

Ed Plum is a disorganized lawyer assigned the daunting task of executing the will of Sam Westing.

  • Barney Northrup

Mr. Northrup is a businessman who arranged the sale of the various apartments in Sunset Towers to the Westing heirs, and another alias of Sam Westing.

  • Samuel W. Westing

Sam Westing was a self-made millionaire who was born Windy Windkloppel, but Americanized his name for business purposes. His four aliases were Samuel W. Westing, Sandy McSouthers the doorman, Julian R. Eastman (the WPP Chairman), and the landlord, Barney Northrup. He did not truly die until many years after the Westing Game. Turtle, as T. R. Wexler, becomes his lawyer. Westing's true motivations are unclear, but given the ultimate result, it is likely that Chris and Dr. Deere's answer was correct- that Westing wanted to make his heirs happy and leave a better legacy than the tragedy that marred his earlier life.

Clues by team

The clues in each case are listed in the order they were first listed in the book. In seven cases, they were capitalized and formed a separate paragraph; the capitalization is followed in this article.

  • Table 1 (Madame Hoo and Jake)—

OF AMERICA AND GOD ABOVE

  • Table 2 (Turtle and Flora Baumbach) —

SEA MOUNTAIN AM O

  • Table 3 (Chris and Denton Deere)—

FOR PLAIN GRAIN SHED

  • Table 4 (Sandy and Judge Ford)—

SKIES AM SHINING BROTHER

  • Table 5 (Grace and Mr. Hoo)—

FRUITED PURPLE WAVES FOR SEA

  • Table 6 (Crow and Otis Amber)—

WITH THY BEAUTIFUL MAJESTIES

  • Table 7 (Theo and Doug)—

HIS N ON TO THEE FOR

  • Table 8 (Angela and Sydelle)—

GOOD GRACE FROM HOOD SPACIOUS

These clues constituted almost all of the lyrics from "America The Beautiful." Sam Westing's will included words from the song as well.

Solution

The clues provided to the heirs are mostly words from the song "America the Beautiful", taken out of order. When rearranged, it becomes clear that several words or parts of words are missing; these spell out one of the heir's name Berthe Erica Crow. Crow names herself as the solution. However, this is not the 'true' solution of the game. Judge J. J. Ford later recognizes this move as the "queen's sacrifice", a move that Sam Westing would always use to defeat her in chess. So this proves that Sam Westing is not dead.

The will does not state that Samuel Westing was murdered but rather that his "life was taken." The will is broken down in sections of FIRST, SECOND, etc., totaling nineteen, and in the THIRD stated that "the one who wins the windfall will be the one who finds the..." and is interrupted by an outburst from Sandy McSouthers before continuing "FOURTH. Hail to thee..." Turtle realizes that there was no missing word after and that finding "the Fourth" was to find "the fourth" identity of Sam Westing. At this point, Turtle makes the connection that of the "four winds" mentioned in the will (North, East, South, and West), and that Windy WINDkloppel (the name Sam Westing was born with), Sam WESTing, Barney NORTHrup, Sandy McSOUTHers, and Julian R. EASTman are all the same person. Julian R. Eastman was the fourth identity that the heirs were truly instructed to find. Turtle confronts Eastman, confirming his identity as Sandy/Westing, and becomes his protege and heir.

References

Other Media

The Westing Game, adapted by Darian Lindle and directed by Terry Brino-Dean, was first produced at Prime Stage Theatre in Pittsburgh in 2009.

Get A Clue, adapted by Dylan Kelsey Hadley and directed by Terence H. Winkless was produced for television in 1997.

External links

Book collection.jpg Novels portal
Awards
Preceded by
Bridge to Terabithia
Newbery Medal recipient
1979
Succeeded by
A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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