|The Westing Play|
1992 Puffin edition.
|Cover artist||Rick Riordan|
|Publisher||E. P. Dutton|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|LC Classification||PZ7.R1817 We 2003|
The Westing Game is a novel by Ellen Raskin that was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1979. It has been adapted into a movie, released under both the names The Westing Game and Get a Clue. The sixteen heirs of magnate Sam Westing are called upon at the reading of his will to unravel the secret behind his death.
16 individuals who are mysteriously chosen to live in the Sunset Tower apartment building on the shore of Lake Michigan, come together to hear the will of the self made millionaire, Sam Westing. The will takes the form of a puzzle, dividing up the 16 into 8 pairs, giving each pair a different set of clues, and challenging the heirs to solve the mystery of which of them 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. Different friendships are made and broken among the heirs as they try to solve the clues.
James is a fat old man. Having failed at his career as an inventor, he started a restaurant in Sunset Tower that isn't very successful. He doesn't understand his wife or his "dumb jock" of a son. Despite his surly demeanor, though, he does have a caring side, expressed through his practical and ingenious solutions to others' problems. He blames 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 he makes a veritable fortune on paper innersoles (an invention made originally to help Sandy McSouthers stay comfortable while standing up all day!)
Sun Lin comes from China by way of Hong Kong, and speaks practically no English, which isolates her from most of the other residents of Sunset Towers, and resourceful, able to capitalize on opportunities when they present themselves to her. Because she doesn't speak English at first, the other residents of the apartment ignore her, 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. As the book progresses, she speaks more and more English to the point of speaking it fluently at the end. She is the burglar. At the end of the book, Madame Sun Lin Hoo (or Sunny, as her nickname at that point is) chooses to take over her husband's paper innersole business rather than go back to China.
Doug is a high school senior who spends much of his spare time running; his dad criticizes him for not studying. His stepmother, however, seems very proud of his accomplishments. In the end of the story, Doug becomes an Olympic star, winning the gold medal twice, and goes on to become a sports announcer.
George and Catherine run the successful coffee shop in Sunset Tower. Catherine is not a significant character in the story, important mostly as a sign of George Theodorakis having moved on from an ill-fated romance in his past that ties him to the Westing family. They are not heirs in the Westing will.
Theo is George and Catherine's high-school-aged son. He's a nice enough kid, but not probing in his analysis. He often fails to see the real truth behind the obvious facade, as when he misjudges his partner Doug Hoo as nothing but a jock, when he develops a crush on the pretty Angela Wexler without learning anything about who she is as a person, and when he falls for a gambit and takes his opponent's queen in a game of chess. He takes care of his brother, Christos, but uses his brother's condition as an excuse to not choose a college to go to. He marries Turtle Wexler later on, but does not pursue a child yet, due to the possibility of having the same problem as Chris.
Christos is a troubled child. A disability he has contracted has limited his movement and left him with a terrible stutter. Although people think he is dumb, he is very observant and helps his partner, Denton Deere. He also birdwatches. His speak condition and general health improves as the book progresses, thanks to a medicine Doctor Deere gives him. At the end of the book he even discovers a new species of bird with the help of his wife.
Jake Wexler is a podiatrist and a bookie. He is a caring father and loving husband, and the only tenant in Sunset Tower 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. Jake Wexler seems to try to keep his family together, worrying about Angela's insecurities and his wife's anxieties. At the end of the book, Jake becomes the state crime commissioner.
Grace is conscious of social class to a fault; she is extremely concerned with presenting herself as culturally sophisticated and high-born, fancying herself an heiress and a decorator rather than a housewife, stressing her regal "Windsor" name, and identifying her podiatrist husband as a "doctor." She is not as shallow as she comes across, having married for love and not for money, but is determined that her daughter Angela will fare better in life than she did. Her maiden name was Gracie Windkloppel and she is really related to 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 (now a restaurant chain going all the way to Hoo's on Tenth). According to Turtle, Hoo's on Tenth isn't as successful, but it's closest to where Jake works, which is why Grace keeps it open.
Most of the tenants of Sunset Tower dismiss Angela as just another pretty face. She is engaged to up-and-coming plastic surgeon Dr. Denton Deere with the strong support of her mother, although Angela still harbors reservations. She is also the bomber. Although her little sister Turtle would scarcely believe it, Angela is jealous of Turtle's ability to defy authority. Later in the story, she ends the engagement with Dr. Deere, but later marries him and has a girl named Alice. Angela tends to be favored over Turtle, given the larger bedroom and more attention.
If Angela inherited her mother's good looks, Turtle inherited her mother's scheming. 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 finds a mother figure in her soft-spoken partner, Flora Baumbach, whom she calls "Baba." Turtle is a 13 year old "witch" as she describes herself in the first reading of the will, however by the end of the game she becomes more sophisticated and a "financier" as puts it at the last meeting of the will after she made $11,587.50 in profit from the $10,000 she bought in Westing Paper Products stock. Turtle approaches the Westing game like a market capitalist, and ultimately sees through Westing's misdirection to understand the real mystery behind Sam Westing's game. Turtle is the closest character the book has to being the main character, and in one of the movie adaptations she was in fact the main character. She has a crush on Doug Hoo even though she sees him as a jerk. At the end of the book, she marries Theo. She befriends Sam Westing and does the impossible at the end: she beats him at his own game... not the Westing Game but chess.
Sydelle is a habitually overlooked person. She decided to fight against the anonymity brought on by her working-class upbringing as the child of immigrants by capitalizing on whatever chance events might bring her attention: her having the only transcript of the will (even though it is in Polish) by dint of her secretarial training; her young, attractive partner; her injury, which she exaggerates by painting her crutches; and her accidental status as a Westing heir itself. Sydelle really becomes injured during the book, however she recovers. She is also the mistake. At the end of the book, Sydelle marries her boss and moves to Hawaii. She is shown using her crutches, however that was because she had really hurt her ankle on the dance floor, since after the Westing game, she no longer has difficulty with being noticed. After becoming an heiress she no longer needs to manipulate people's attention. She earns it without difficulty.
Otis, comes across as an uncouth delivery boy, apparently a minor figure in Sunset Tower, but turns out to have hidden depths, such as his working in the local soup kitchen, run by fellow Sunset Tower employee Berthe Erica Crow, and being a licensed private investigator who later becomes an important figure due to being hired by Judge Ford and Sam Westing. He has feelings for Crow and marries her in the end. Later, both he and Crow die, a week apart from each other.
Known to most tenants only as "Crow," this slight, pinched woman serves as cleaning woman for Sunset Tower. A deeply religious woman, Crow provides food to the indigent at the Good Salvation Soup Kitchen. She is haunted by a tragedy in her past, which leads her to become a curious ally of Angela's. She is also Sam Westing's former wife, as well as part of the answer to the Westing Game. In the end she marries Otis Amber and dies a week apart from him.
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," (because "Bambach" sounds like "Bomb", and hearing part of Flora's last name, someone calls the bomb squad) especially when she braids Turtle's hair. Although a naturally optimistic person, she has developed her exaggeratedly cheerful disposition in order to cope with tragedy in her own past, including the loss of her mentally retarded daughter Rosalie. In the end she gives up dressmaking and moves in with Turtle.
Denton Deere, and intern to become a plastic surgeon, and 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, helping Chris to do a medical trial for his illness. He is sometimes depicted as being absent-minded or inattentive. He breaks up with Angela, reunites, marries her, and has a daughter named Alice.
Judge J.J. Ford is a highly competent judge, intimidating on the bench, choosing to smile only on rare occasions. As the gangly daughter of the Westings's maid, she remembers playing chess with Sam Westing, and losing every time. She is determined to win this final game with Sam Westing. Westing paid for her education, which she suspects was a politically calculated move on his part. Ford is one of the most brilliant players of the Westing game, trying to calculate Westings moves and motives. In the end, she gains a place on the Supreme Court and befriends Chris.
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 is 62 years old and is a jolly man. He also keeps an eye and an ear out for any bits of information his fellow tenants might drop. He turns out to be a disguise of Sam Westing, fake teeth and all.
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. He is also one of Sam Westing's four disguises, and also the other part of the answer.
Ed Plum is a somewhat bumbling, disorganized, ineloquent lawyer who has been assigned the daunting task of executing the will of Sam Westing, and carrying out its many eccentric and unconventional instructions.
Dr. Sikes served as Sam Westing's personal physician and close friend. He is instrumental in the plot, but the story reveals little about his character.
Sam Westing was a self-made millionaire until his tragic and mysterious death. Writing a will and leaving his life fortune to his sixteen "Nieces and Nephews" knowing that greed would keep them playing his last game.
A real-estate agent that sent all the heirs an inventation to live in sunset towers, another one of Sam Westings personalities( because there is no Barney Northrup).
AMERICA OF AND GOD ABOVE
SEA AM O MOUNTAIN
FOR PLAIN GRAIN SHED
SKIES AM SHINING BROTHER
PURPLE WAVES FRUITED SEA FOR
WITH THY BEAUTIFUL MAJESTIES
(ON or NO) TO THEE FOR HIS N
GOOD HOOD SPACIOUS GRACE FROM
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 "Berthe Erica Crow", the name of one of the 16 heirs. However, this is not the true answer. It is simply a scheme used to distract the heirs and keep them from finding the actual solution to the game. Judge J.J. Ford later recognizes this move as the "queen's sacrifice", a move that Sam 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 stated that "the one who wins the windfall will be the one who finds the... FOURTH." Turtle realizes that "the fourth" refers to 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 was the only one who recognized this and therefore she wins the game and becomes sole heir to Sam Westing.
Angela Wexler is the bomber , but when Turtle finds out she lies and says it was her who was responsible for the bombs, not Angela. Sydelle Pulaski overhears Turtle talking to Angela and also realizes her "sweet, saintly partner is the bomber." Turtle thinks Theo may have figured it out, and in the chapter Turtle's Trial, Josie-Jo Ford realizes, from Turtle's actions, that Angela is the bomber.
The bookie is Jake Wexler. Turtle says to him that she knows he is the bookie, Sandy McSouthers also finds this out, and he signs bookie as his occupation on the final receipt.
Sun Lin Hoo is the burglar and is responsible for the theft of the pearls, Mickey Mouse clock, J.J. Ford's father Ezra Ford's watch, and a few other items. She gives them back in the chapter Turtle's Trial, but Turtle lets her keep the clock. In Chapter 29, "Five Years Pass," each character resolves their own personal problems. Hoo's Little Foot Eze is booming with business, and Theo graduates from journalism school. Doug is an Olympic gold medalist, Denton Deere becomes a neurologist. Angela goes to medical school. She and Denton break up, but after she goes to college, they get back together, get married, and have a daughter named Alice (Flora Baumbach used to call Turtle Alice). Sydelle marries the president of Schultz Sausages. Chris is partially cured of his disease (he is able to speak clearly and has enhanced physical control, but is still and always would be confined to the wheelchair) and meets and marries fellow birdwatcher Shirley Staver (he also discovers a new species of bird: the something-christos bird), while Grace Wexler gets into the restaurant business running ten restaurants (From Hoo's on First to Hoo's on Tenth). However, the tenth one is unsuccessful, yet she kept it open, to be closer to her husband, who ended up as the state crime commissioner. Flora Baumbach moves in with Turtle and retires due to having won partial inheritance (as everyone except Turtle did since Turtle acquired the full inheritance). And finally, Turtle begins to date Theo for quite some time, and takes a high-ranking job with Westing Paper Products. Twenty years after The Westing Game, Sam Westing, as Julian R. Eastman, finally dies of old age for real, leaving everything to Turtle. At the end, Turtle wins.
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