The Westing Game
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|Publisher||E. P. Dutton|
|Pages||182 or 217 pages|
|LC Class||PZ7.R1817 We 2003|
The Westing Game is a 1979 Newbery Medal winning novel by Ellen Raskin. 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.
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Sixteen heirs who are mysteriously chosen to live in the Sunset Towers apartment building on the shore of Lake Michigan which has 5 floors, somewhere in Milwaukee, 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 which consist of almost all of the lyrics from "America the Beautiful", and challenging them to solve the mystery of who murdered Sam Westing. As an incentive, each heir is given $10,000 to play the game. Whoever solves the mystery will inherit Sam Westing's $200,000,000 fortune, and his company, Westing Paper Products.
- Madame Hoo steals to pay for her return to China. At the beginning of the book, she speaks almost no English, but, with help from her partner and makeshift English tutor, Jake Wexler, by the end of the book she learns many words and phrases. Her real name is (Madame) Sun Lin Hoo.
- Jake Wexler is the Jewish husband of Grace Wexler and a dedicated father to Angela and Turtle. He works as a podiatrist, a position his wife never considers to be 'a real doctor.' Later in the novel, it was shown that he also has a second occupation as a bookie. He loves Grace, but he also knows that she might never be happy with their life or financial situation. He is also 45 years old.
- Flora Baumbach is a shy 60-year-old dressmaker and a sort of mother figure to her partner, Turtle Wexler. She is told by Turtle that Turtle's real name is Alice. Her daughter, Rosalie, had Down Syndrome (though is described in the book as "a Mongoloid") and died of pneumonia. She says that Angela reminds her of Violet Westing. Her husband left, it is unknown whether he died or if there was a divorce.
- Tabitha-Ruth "Alice" 'Turtle' Wexler is an intelligent 13-year-old girl, whose main feature is her single, long, dark braid. She is also known for kicking anyone in the shins if they try to pull or touch her braid, or in a lesser extent, someone who plays the stock market. Her real name is Tabitha-Ruth Wexler, but tells Flora that her real name is Alice.
- Dr. Denton Deere is a young medical intern, age 25. He is engaged to Angela and very arrogant. He is extremely proud of the medical industry, and he has an obsession with giving diagnoses to almost everyone in the story. Eventually, he becomes a neurologist after getting Chris Theodorakis into a medical trial group for treating his debilitating seizure condition and speech impediment.
- Christos "Chris" Theodorakis is a 15-year-old boy who, due to a severe illness, is confined to a wheelchair. He has a stutter and speech impediment and is also prone to seizures. However, he is very observant and enjoys not only birdwatching, but also watching people.
- Judge J. J. (Josie-Jo) Ford is a female judge who is proud of her heritage and background. She is considered cold and sophisticated, but as the story progresses, she grows fond of Chris and of her partner, Sandy. Her full name is Josie-Jo Ford. Her parents worked for Samuel Westing; he paid for her education.
- Alexander "Sandy" McSouthers is an old Scottish door man. He was a boxer before he went to work in Westing's factory. It is revealed in the story that, despite his friendly and extroverted nature, he is still extremely bitter towards Westing, who fired him from the factory. His full name is Alexander McSouthers.
- Grace Wexler is the mother of Angela and Turtle and is described as a high and mighty socialite. She is fiercely obsessed with her own image and the image of Angela. She claims throughout the game to be Mr. Westing's niece (which is indeed true). She purports her name as Grace Windsor Wexler, although it actually is Gracie Windkloppel Wexler.
- James Shin Hoo is a middle-aged Chinese man, owner of Shin Hoo's restaurant and former entrepreneur. He claims Mr. Westing stole his patent for the disposable diaper and appears bitter and moody for this reason. He suffers from ulcers, and he can often be seen yelling at his son, Doug, to study. It is later revealed in the very last pages of the book that he dies.
- Berthe Erica Crow is a militantly religious woman who is 57 years old, tight and introverted. She works as a cleaning woman for Sunset Towers and plays a major role in Westing's plot.
- Otis Amber is a 62-year-old delivery boy, who, on initial appearance, seems extremely dimwitted.
- Douglas 'Doug' Hoo is an 18-year-old track star who feels smothered by his father. He appears to be a good friend to his partner, Theo Theodorakis, though running consumed most of the time he should have spent helping Theo with Westing's clues.
- Theo Theodorakis is a 17-year-old boy who enjoys playing chess and dreams of being a writer. His life is dominated by working in his family's cafe and caring for Chris, his invalid brother. Throughout the book, he plays chess with a mysterious person, each time making one single move. However, he lost as he is duped by the "Queen's Sacrifice", which is pointed out by J.J Ford, when she played chess with Sam Westing the last time.
- Sydelle Pulaski is a large hipped, middle-aged woman who works as a secretary and uses crutches to get attention, although she doesn't need them. She thinks that having Angela as a partner will get her invited to parties, and she uses both that and her supposed "wasting disease" to become more familiar with everyone in the building. Truth to be told, she is the "mistake" who was invited to live in Sunset Towers and participate in the game. When Judge Ford hires a private investigator to unearth concealed facts about all the heirs it is discovered that there was a childhood friend of Mrs. Westing named "Sybil Pulaski" who was the intended participant.
- Angela Wexler is Turtle's 20-year-old sister. She is described as being fair, blond, and very pretty. She is considered the 'perfect' daughter, often getting more attention than Turtle. However, people only acknowledge her as an attractive object about to be married to D. Denton Deere instead of an intelligent human being. Only Turtle, Sydelle Pulaski and Judge Ford know that she is the bomber in the story (which causes Turtle to take the blame for something that she never did to protect Angela); ironically, she is the only one who sustained a serious injury (leaving a scar on her face). She is engaged to a young doctor-to-be, Denton Deere in the beginning of the story, but finally marries him years later, and both of them have a child named Alice Deere.
Each of the characters were arranged with partners with different sets of clues.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 heirs' names, 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. 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 twelve, 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 Sam Westing, disguised as 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 four identities of Sam Westing - Sam Westing, Sandy McSouthers, Barney Northrup, and Julian Eastman. His true name was Samuel "Windy" Windkloppel, changing it because "after all, who would buy a product called Windkloppel's Paper Products? Would you?" Although he hadn't counted on anyone winning, he had hoped that Turtle would be able to solve the riddle by the end to claim the prize. Turtle does solve the Westing game and is mentored by Eastman for many years afterward.
The epilogue of the story is told in the book's last three chapters, which depict the heirs growing older and successful, many of them changing their lives as a result of the game.
- Crow and Otis Amber fall in love and are married in Angela and Deere's place, both leaving their jobs at Sunset Towers to work at Crow's soup kitchen, which many of the heirs leave donations. Both die within a week of one another two years before Sandy does.
- Flora Baumbach leaves the dressmaking business a few years after the game's conclusion, becoming Turtle's close friend and later Alice's nanny.
- Denton Deere and Angela Wexler both question their life choices and ultimately separate, with Denton becoming a neurologist due to his success in treating Chris, and Angela returning to medical school and becoming a surgeon. Five years after the game's conclusion, the two are reunited, marry, and have a daughter named Alice.
- Judge Ford agrees to finance Chris' education in homage to her mentor, Sam Westing. She is elected to the US Court of Appeals and later the Supreme Court.
- Sun Lin Hoo ultimately never leaves her husband, becoming fluent in English, adopting the nickname "Sunny", and becoming James' secretary in his new company. After he dies she finally takes her trip to China, but returns to take up the family business.
- James Hoo leaves the restaurant business, giving it to Grace, and patents his shoe-sole idea, becoming a multimillionaire and moving out of Sunset Towers with his family. He dies briefly before the story concludes, being succeeded in the company by his wife.
- Doug Hoo wins his first Olympic gold medal shortly after the game ends, and goes on to win two more. Retiring from athletics, he becomes a popular sports announcer.
- Chris Theodorakis ultimately conquers his muscle disease and stutter thanks to Denton's extensive work with him, though he never overcomes being wheelchair-bound. Having his college education financed by Judge Ford, he meets a girl named Shirley during his first year. The two later marry and become professors at the local university, and Chris discovers and names a new breed of parrot during a safari in Africa.
- Sydelle Pulaski returns to her old job at Schultz' Sausages, discovering that Mr. Schultz has a crush on her and later marrying him. The pair move to Hawaii, though Sydelle stays in touch with Angela. She gives up using crutches to get attention but requires the use of them for a proper purpose several times over the ending's course.
- Jake Wexler becomes unsatisfied with his job as a podiatrist, quitting and being recommended to a political position by Judge Ford. He becomes the Chairman of the State Gambling Commission and then the Wisconsin State Crime Commissioner, though the jobs gave him little time to spend with his wife.
- Grace Wexler takes up James' restaurant, renaming it "Hoo's on First" and giving it a theme of local sports stars, getting her rave reviews which ultimately results in a chain of ten such restaurants, the latest of which is primarily to allow her to work close to her husband in Madison, though Turtle is convinced it is a financial failure.
- Theo Thedorakis attends a literary college, becoming an assistant to a reporter (Who incidentally writes the article on Doug's first gold medal) and later becoming a novelist. His first novel does not sell well, but at the book's end he has almost finished his second book. Theo marries Turtle, though they agree not to have children lest they inherit Chris' disease. Theo and Chris' parents move to Florida after retiring from their coffee shop business.
- Tabitha-Ruth "Turtle" Wexler, having discovered Sam Westing's secret life and solved the game, is dedicated to being his successor and ultimately the president of Westing Paper Products. She takes on the nickname of T.R., attends college, being only 18 in her second year of college, and makes over $5,000,000 on the stock market. Turtle marries Theo and begins tutoring Angela's daughter Alice to play chess.
- "Newbery Medal & Honor Books, 1922-Present". Association for Library Service to Children. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
- The Westing Game manuscript online at UW Madison
- The Westing Game at the Internet Movie Database
- The Game learning guide, analysis, quotes, & teacher resources
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