The Westing Game
For over twenty-five years, Ellen Raskin's Newbery Medal-winning The Westing Game has been an enduring favorite. It has sold over one and a half million copies. This highly inventive mystery involves sixteen people who are invited to the reading of Samuel W. Westing's will. They could become millionaires-it all depends on how they play the tricky and dangerous Westing game, a game involving blizzards, burglaries, and bombings! Ellen Raskin has created a remarkable cast of characters in a puzzle-knotted, word-twisting plot filled with humor, intrigue, and suspense.
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1 - SUNSET TOWERS
Situational irony occurs when we expect on thing, but the opposite happens. For example, we expect Sunset Towers to have towers and face the west so visitors can see the sun set, but the opposite it true. Watch the video below to learn more about the different types of irony. (This annotation contains a video)
In what point of view is this story told?
How would Barney Northrup know that? The reader should ask the same question as Jake Wexler. Barney Northrup knowing personal information about the Wexlers makes both Jake and the reader suspicious, foreshadowing something strange might happen later in the story. Watch the video below for more information on foreshadowing. (This annotation contains a video)
The reader should take note of this comment. The story is called "The Westing Game," and we have just been told that there is a mansion located near Sunset Towers called the Westing house. It is likely that this will come back into the story later.
What do we know about Barney Northrup?
The end of this chapter foreshadows that something out of the ordinary is going to happen because Barney rented an apartment out to the wrong person. This sets up the problem of our story.
2 - GHOSTS OR WORSE
You can look up the definitions of words in this text. Simply select a word and choose the "Define" feature. This feature may be very helpful to you as you read along and answer questions.
What type of literary device is used here?
Here the reader is getting descriptions of some of the characters. Not only has the author given direct characterization with physical descriptions, but also indirect characterization from how characters act or react.
What do we know about Turtle? Give an example of direct and indirect characterization, and support your answers with evidence from the text.
As a result of the third person omniscient point of view, the reader has more information than the characters in the story. When the audience has more information than the characters, it is called dramatic irony.
A purple martin can be seen below. (This annotation contains an image)
The timeline of events in this chapter can be a bit confusing. Which of the following things happened first?
3 - TENANTS IN AND OUT
What relationship does Angela have with Turtle?
When authors use words that sound like the word they're describing, it's called onomatopoeia. Here, the word "tsk" sounds like the noise that Mrs. Wexler is making with her tongue. The pronunciation of the word can be heard in the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
What do we know about Mrs. Wexler? Include one physical description and one personality trait.
Most stories follow a plot diagram, which you can see below. The exposition is the portion of the book that sets up the story. During the exposition, the reader is introduced to characters, the setting, and any necessary background information. Currently in the exposition, the story is focusing heavily on outlining the characters, which means characterization is an important part of the story. Most expositions end when the problem of the story is introduced. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is the best synonym for the word putrid? You can use the Define feature to help you with the word.
As a reader, we know that Chris saw someone with a limp walking into Westing house before the smoke started. The author describes Sydelle Pulaski as having a limp. It is important for readers to make note of these connections because they may be important in the future.
4 - THE CORPSE FOUND
What is about to occur?
The reader is now experiencing what Turtle is thinking the morning after seeing the corpse in Westing house. However, she has just read that he was found dead in the newspaper, despite being the only one who saw him. This situation should cause the reader to question along with Turtle, "Then who found the body?"
There is a lot of suspicious activity occurring in this story. What genre is this story most likely?
Those who received these letters will probably be getting money from Sam Westing, and we know that he was worth 200 million dollars. Think about what sharing 200 million dollars might do to a group of strangers.
5 - SIXTEEN HEIRS
"Draped in bunting" means that the coffin had the American flag draped over it.
The fact that Sam Westing is holding Grace Wexler's silver cross that Turtle lost adds a level of suspense to the story.
What type of figurative language is "tsk"?
It is important to note that although Chris has trouble speaking and is in a wheelchair, he is not mentally deficient.
What has Dr. Deere noticed about Pulaski's limp?
6 - THE WESTING WILL
It is likely that Westing's will was in the envelope Turtle saw next to the bed that said "If I'm found dead in bed."
How does this statement propel the plot further?
Also, take note of how each of the characters responds to the news of Westing's murder. The way characters react to big news is often very telling about who they are as people.
What does it sound like Westing is challenging his heirs to do?
7 - THE WESTING GAME
Westing is challenging the heirs to discover the true nature of each player, implying that not everyone is what they seem. This theme of true identify vs. perceived identity is a common one throughout this story. Watch the video below for more information about theme. (This annotation contains a video)
Dr. Wexler is making a joke about his "position." Position can either mean job position, or position of your body. Here Dr. Wexler writes the position of his body instead of his job as a podiatrist.
"Sighs of relief greeted the naming of Turtle's partner..." Who sighed in relief?
The Judge's thought process is revealing. She is self-conscience about how formal her title is compared to everyone else's. She also talks herself down in the end, saying "Westin's getting to you already and the game has barely begun." Again, it is important to take note of how each character reacts to situations.
Crow seems to have a nickname for Sam Westing: Windy.
Angela believes that because of Pulaski's limp, she could not be the murderer, but the reader knows more than her. What type of literary device is this?
Characters are starting to form opinions and take notice of the qualities of one another. It is important to notice and keep track of these qualities the way the characters do.
Describe the clues. Use evidence from the text.
Readers should take notice when someone older and wiser is giving advice, because it often leads to a significant lesson in a novel. Here, Sam Westing gives advice that relates to the theme of identify. "Life, too, is senseless unless you know who you are, what you want, and which way the wind blows," and continues, "some are not who they say they are, and some are not who they seem to be."
8 - THE PAIRED HEIRS
After introducing the characters, the plot has continued to develop by revealing the problem. The characters must play the Westing Game in order to become the heir to Westing estate, and figure out who the murderer is. Now that the problem has been introduced, the readers are now experiencing the rising action of the story. (This annotation contains an image)
How does Pulaski have a copy of the will?
Sydelle Pulaski is pretending to limp, and Chris can tell. But he says that Pulaski's limp is not like the one that went into Westing house. This just makes the reader really question, "Why is Pulaski pretending to limp? Why does she want that attention?"
Why is it ironic that Chris has the most insight into what is going on?
"It's not what you have, but what the others have that counts," is what Sam Westing wrote in his will. As the reader, we have privilege to knowing more clues than each pair of heirs. Are you noticing anything about the words that have been given out? Pay attention and see if you can develop a prediction on what the words have in common.
Make a prediction as to what the clues have in common.
The reader can infer that Doug and Theo bought Sydelle coffee, pastries, and rice pudding in order to get her copy of the will, but she did not give them what they wanted.
The reader now knows that the clues are the words to America the Beautiful; therefore, Theo's statement that all the clues put together make one meaning is obvious to the audience, but not to the characters who do not have access to the other clues. Below is America the Beautiful with the lyrics, to make it clear that the clues are the lyrics. (This annotation contains a video)
"Pompous promises," and "slogans and silliness" both have repeated consonant sounds. What type of figurative language is this?
Angela was clearly paying attention to what was going on, and she was able to determine some of the other clues based on what people were saying.
Which of the following words does NOT describe Angela?
Chess has come up several different times in the story: through the obituary, the game Theo plays with the mysterious person, and in the Judge's comments.
9 - LOST AND FOUND
How do these flyers help to develop the theme of identity?
Think back to the series of events that led to Sydelle and Angela thinking that the clue had something to do with twins. It is important to note how dialogue and events can lead the action forward.
Why does Turtle react this way?
What is the importance of what Judge Ford hears on the phone?
10 - THE LONG PARTY
It is strange that Mrs. Wexler does not notice that the apartment is a one bedroom rather than a three bedroom apartment because she says she is a decorator. One would think that as a decorator, Mrs. Wexler would notice the difference. Therefore, it is ironic because it is the opposite of what the reader would expect.
How is Angela feeling towards her mother at this point?
Characters can be categorized by how much they are developed or how much they change throughout the novel. Round characters are well-developed, and flat characters are not. Dynamic characters are characters who go through a change in the novel, while static characters do not. Pay attention to the development of the characters. Are they well-developed? Are they going through changes? What is causing these changes?
Section 1 Quiz
11 - THE MEETING
When an author makes a comparison between two objects using the words "like" or "as," it is called a simile. Here, the author compares walking into the coffee shop to entering a cave. This is an example of a simile.
Why is Dr. Wexler's bookkeeping so funny? This could be evidence that there is something suspicious about Dr. Wexler that the reader and Wexler's wife don't know about.
What type of figurative language is being used here?
Why would Turtle lie about her real name?
12 - THE FIRST BOMB
What is ironic about the sentence, "She could have a heart attack and no one would notice"?
Although this sentence does not seem to reveal much, it actually helps develop Mr. Hoo's character significantly. Think about why Mr. Hoo would smile at the fact that the Theodorakis family will have to close their store. What does this say about Mr. Hoo?
If the theme of this story is about people being afraid to reveal their true selves. What "crutches" do the different characters seem to have?
The reader has learned a lot by the end of this chapter. Which of the following is NOT something that is revealed?
13 - THE SECOND BOMB
How does the point of view cause suspense at the beginning of this chapter?
Think about the patriotic connections, such as the lyrics to "America the Beautiful", and the Uncle Sam costume. What could these clues be telling the reader? (This annotation contains an image)
Analyze the importance of the conversations between characters.
A bookie is a person who takes bets on sports. They are often portrayed as men who are tough and focus mainly on making money. A cartoon depiction of a bookie is shown below. (This annotation contains an image)
This is an example of dramatic irony; the audience knows more than most of the characters.
14 - PAIRS REPAIRED
Why didn't Turtle wear boots?
Since the theme of this story is identity and characters showing their true selves, the reader should consider what Sandy has just revealed. The reader has learned that Sandy is both a devoted family man, and also a boxer. Can he be both? Is he one more than the other?
Use the Define feature to look up the definition for "obsequious." Then, create your own sentence using the word correctly.
This passage makes the reader question, "What is Crow's love?" and "Who is the boy she wants to come back?"
What is it called when a piece of literature makes a reference to another piece of artwork, literature, or song?
15 - FACT AND GOSSIP
The titles of the chapters hint at what is going to happen. Think about how this title connects to the theme of identity and true selves.
Which character makes deliveries and shouts, "boom!"?
Grace is making a reference to a famous comedy sketch by Abbot and Costello called "Who's on First?" You can watch a clip of the sketch below. (This annotation contains a video)
The Judge is trying to piece information together just like the reader. It seems scandalous that Angela and Theo look like Westing's daughter and the man she wanted to marry. It is also suspenseful, because if this is a connection, then it is revealed that Angela will die.
16 - THE THIRD BOMB
Based on what the reader knows, where would the third bomb go off?
The repetition of vowel sounds in the middle of words is called
The explosion of the third bomb has created a new level of distrust amongst the heirs, which can be seen in the text, which switches between actual dialogue and thoughts. This structure parallels the theme of identify and true selves.
17 - SOME SOLUTIONS
Crow has a preoccupation with Theo and Angela. Make a prediction as to why using evidence from the text.
18 - THE TRACKERS
Mrs. Baumbach is focusing a lot of attention on Turtle. We can infer from the text that Turtle enjoys the attention, likely because she does not get that positive attention from her mother.
Why would it seem ironic that Ms. Baumbach spends most of her time at the stockbrokers?
Mongoloid is an outdated and now offensive term for someone who has Down Syndrome. You can read more about Down Syndrome by going to the website below. (This annotation contains a link)
One of the heirs is a mistake. Therefore, the fact that Sydelle Pulaski "did not seem to fit in," may foreshadow that she is the mistake.
When Doug was following Otis, why did Otis go to all of those locations?
19 - ODD RELATIVES
Penance is a voluntary self-imposed punishment for a sinful act. What has Crow done that requires penance?
Which of the following is NOT an example of where we have heard the name Windy Windkloppel before?
Why would Sandy McSouthers's face redden? Is he embarrassed that he talked badly about Sam Westing?
Who is the mistake?
20 - CONFESSIONS
Turtle has Mrs. Baumbach helping her play the stock market while she is in school. Watch the video below for a great summary of what the stock market is. (This annotation contains a video)
Compare and contrast Angela Wexler and Violet Westing.
Section 2 Quiz
21 - THE FOURTH BOMB
The title of this chapter is The Fourth Bomb. Although Angela is in the hospital, will she set off another bomb? Will Turtle try to take the blame to save Angela?
Use the Define feature for help and write a sentence using the term "derelict" correctly.
The game of chess continues to emerge throughout the novel. Chess could symbolize the Westing Game, in which each character is a piece of the game, and after every move, or character decision, the game changes. Watch the video for more on symbolism in novels. (This annotation contains a video)
Turtle's braid is one of the most distinguishing features of the young girl. What might losing her braid symbolize?
One of the groups has finally had a breakthrough with the clues. What portion of the plot diagram are we about to reach?
22 - LOSERS, WINNER
What does this reveal?
Which of the following pieces of evidence does not support the idea that Sam Westing is alive?
A Vandyke beard is often mistakenly called a goatee. You can see one in the image below. This is apparently the type of beard Sam Westing had. (This annotation contains an image)
The highlighted text is most likely an example of
23 - STRANGE ANSWERS
The highlighted text is a somewhat humorous statement because Turtle has been acting like a real businesswoman and playing the stock market.
Describe what an ornithologist does. You can use Google or the Define feature for help.
As a boxer, Sandy McSouthers probably has a face that has injuries.
Is there a connection between this chess game and the chess game that Judge Ford described earlier?
24 - WRONG ALL WRONG
What part of the plot diagram have we reached?
The Judge's thought process has lead her to believe that Sandy McSouthers is Sam Westing. Think about the evidence to support this claim. Does it make sense?
What is Crow's motivation for giving herself up?
25 - WESTING’S WAKE
"Stoolie" is slang for a stool pigeon, a term for a criminal who gives the police information about other criminals.
Which of the following is NOT a piece of information revealed in this passage?
26 - TURTLE’S TRIAL
A gavel, like the one Judge Ford uses, is a tool judges use in court. These are ceremonial mallets and used to call order in the court, or sound off on rulings. (This annotation contains an image)
What seems to be the main purpose of Turtle's Trial?
In this case, "embalming" refers to preserving a body. Embalming is often done to keep bodies looking as natural as possible for display at funeral homes.
Turtle realizes that nobody knows the end of the sentence because Sandy made a joke at that point. This was surely purposeful, so the reader should note the importance of the incident.
How does this summary of Sam Westing connect back to the theme of identity?
Pay attention to the last names of Sam Westing's aliases. What do they all have in common?
27 - A HAPPY FOURTH
When an author makes a comparison between two unlike things using like or as, it is considered a
Turtle won the game because she found the fourth alias that Sam Westing goes by: Mr. Eastman.
28 - AND THEN . . .
Situational irony is when the expects one thing to happen and something else happens. During the entire book, the author has written about Angela and Dr. Deere's wedding, so the reader expects the wedding that is described to be for them. However, when it states that Angela is wearing a bridesmaid's dress, it makes the reader question who is getting married.
"Private Practice" has a double meaning here. What is the double meaning?
29 - FIVE YEARS PASS
Who is the master?
30 - THE END?
Section 3 Quiz