The lawyer Edgar Jennings Plum introduces himself, explaining that even though he has never met Samuel W. Westing he was appointed executor of the will. He says that though the will seems eccentric, its legality is assured. He then reads the will, which is broken down into numbered sections, such as FIRST and SECOND. with some interruptions. When the will states that Westing has gathered his sixteen nieces and nephews, Grace Wexler yells in surprise - and, as written in the will, is told to sit down. When Westing writes in his will that he did not die of natural causes but his life was taken by one of the sixteen, Chris Theodorakis begins to flail and everyone else expresses concern of a murderer in their midst.
The will goes on to ask if the worthy Westing heir will be the one who
finds the - and at this point Sandy McSouthers yells, "Ashes!"
Some people laugh at the joke while others are annoyed. The will then
mentions the heirs will play the Westing game; when Judge Ford gets up
to leave, the will asks the judge to sit down and read the letter Plum
will be handing over to her. Plum finds the letter and gives it to Judge
Ford, who puts it in her purse unopened. The will then asks for a minute
of silent prayer before the heirs go to the game room: Flora is the only
one to cry, Crow the only one to pray, and Sydelle takes too long to assume
a reverential pose.
The initial W. in Samuel W. Westing is a reference to Windkloppel, his real surname. Readers take for granted that as this will is broken down into sections, they will be numbered. The idea that those numbers - specifically, the word FOURTH - will themselves provide the answer to the game is one of the big revelations of the book. Sam Westing's control of the situation is seen not only in the way he throws off the other heirs by yelling at the crucial point of the will's reading, but also in the way he anticipates in the will itself the behavior of the less agreeable players in his game, Grace Wexler and Judge Ford. The minute of silence asked for Sam Westing in this chapter is matched by the same request towards the end of the novel, when Sam Westing and Sandy McSouthers are revealed to be the same person. Here, the response to the minute of silent prayer is greeted by a general lack of interest.
However, the reactions of three characters are significant. Flora Baumbach seems to cry because she's a weak, emotional person, but she also has ties to the Westing and knows intimately the tragedy of Violet Westing's suicide. Crow prays because she's fervently religious, but she's also the ex-wife of Sam Westing. Sydelle is concerned about making the right appearance - described as a "pose of reverence" which implies that she doesn't feel the actual sentiment - but her desire to be the center of attention gets in the way of her doing so, as her crutches get in the way both literally and figuratively (that is, her dependence on attention is itself an emotional crutch).
Cite this page:
Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on The Westing Game".
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