Free Study Guide for The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

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CHAPTER 3: Tenants In and Out


In 3D Angela Wexler is being fitted for her wedding dress by Flora Baumbach, the dressmaker who lived on the second floor. Grace Wexler watches on, cautioning Flora about her daughter's delicate skin. Angela tells her mother she wasn't pricked but saw smoke coming from the Westing house, news that Turtle brings upon her arrival. Turtle asks Flora to hem her witch's costume but Mrs. Wexler says that Flora's too busy with Angela's wedding dress to have time for a silly costume. Turtle snaps back that a wedding dress is just as silly and who'd want to marry a stuck-up doctor such as Denton Deere. Mrs. Wexler restrains herself from hitting Turtle and Angela offers to hem Turtle's costume. In Doctor Wexler's office, Mrs. Crow also sees the smoke from the Westing House as Jake Wexler is cutting out a corn. Jake notes that she's hurt her shin, and Crow points out that Turtle kicked her, which is what happens when there's no religion in a home.

At Hoo's restaurant, Mr. Hoo is skeptical of the story Doug tells of Westing's corpse rotting on some kind of Oriental rug. He tells Doug to go study, and the son acquiesces. There are only reservations for two customers that evening. Hoo thinks that if Westing is home again, he won't get off so easy this time. Meanwhile, Hoo's wife stares out the restaurant's east window, as if looking past Lake Michigan all the way to China.

Sandy salutes Judge J.J. Ford as she drives up in her Mercedes and points out the smoke from the Westing house and the rumor of the Westing corpse on the rug. He says he's repeating what Otis Amber said, and Judge Ford opines that Otis is stupid if not mad. She considers how to gather money if Sam Westing has indeed returned, and asks Sandy not to repeat what she said about Otis. The doorman assures her he won't, as she's the biggest tipper in Sunset Towers.

Chris Theodorakis tries to tell Theo about the limping man but his stuttering overwhelms him. Instead, Theo describes a spooky scene of Westing dead and rotting on the Oriental rug, much to Chris' delight.

Sydelle Pulaski gets out of her taxi, receiving no help from the driver and Sandy nowhere to be seen. Even though she is limping now, Sydelle is never noticed by anyone, though she moved to Sunset Towers with the hope of meeting elegant people. The only person who pays attention to her is crippled Chris Theodorakis, who she pities. However, her purchases today - painting utensils and crutches - will get her noticed. She does not pay attention to the smoke rising from the Westing house.


Most of the major traits and interpersonal dynamics of the large cast of the novel are captured in a shared moment of watching the smoke rise from the Westing house - which is symbolically the signal for the beginning of the game proper. In the Wexler family, readers see beautiful Angela as being favored by Grace over the more difficult Turtle, as well as Angela's bovine willingness to do whatever her mother wants. Turtle asks Flora for help, something which becomes more common as the novel progresses. Doctor Jake Wexler is away from his family, indicating his emotional distance as well. Crow's religious fervor is also displayed, as well as its irrational use to blame people she doesn't like for non-religious reasons. With the Hoo family, readers see James' anger and Madame Hoo's longing for China. Chris Theodorakis is portrayed as pitied and rarely heeded, despite the valuable knowledge he wishes to share. Sydelle Pulaski's desire for attention blinds her to the smoke that starts the Westing game - which is fair, since she's the mistake in Northrup's choosing of tenants and doesn't have the same initial stake in the game as the others.

While all this is obvious enough, the subtle dynamic that becomes more obvious from a second reading is between Judge Josie-Jo Ford and doorman Sandy McSouthers. The trust Judge Ford establishes with Sandy McSouthers is assumed by the judge to be about money: first the large tips she gives and later the way she gives Sandy her half of the ten thousand dollar checks during the Westing game. Thus, she simplifies both Sandy's motives and feels no need to question his identity. This trust is also part of Sam Westing's plan, as it makes it easier to manipulate Judge Ford throughout the game.


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The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin-Free BookNotes Summary

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