Free Study Guide for The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

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CHAPTER 7: The Westing Game


In the game room, eight card tables are set up. Theo finds someone had started a chess game with a white pawn moved and he moves a black knight in response. Plum continues the reading of the will with the rules of the Westing game: sixteen players will be broken into pairs, each will receive $10,000 and a set of clues, and if any player drops out so must the partner. Absent pairs forfeit the money but their clues will be held until the next session, which will be announced two days beforehand. At that point, each pair must have one answer ready.

The pairs are announced along with the positions they filled when they received the initial letter. First are Madame Sun Lin Hoo and Jake Wexler, whose respective spouses plead for them and the money but to no avail. Second are Turtle Wexler and Flora Baumbach, which pleases Flora. Third are Christos Theodorakis and Denton Deere, which has Theo protesting he should be with his brother while Grace Wexler feels Doctor Deere should be paired with his fiancée; Chris, however, is delighted with the whole situation. Alexander McSouthers is paired with J.J. Ford and Judge Ford is self-conscious of the full occupational title she used for naming her position. Fifth are Grace Windsor Wexler and James Shin Hoo, both lamenting the lost five thousand dollars from their spouses. Sixth are Berthe Erica Crow and Otis Amber, with Crow feeling self-conscious of her guilt and Chris noting she limps. Seventh are Theo Theodorakis and Doug Hoo, who are happy to be paired. Eighth and last are Sydelle Pulaski and Angela Wexler, with Angela initially self-conscious of how embarrassing Sydelle is - then correcting herself, believing this is her mother speaking and not herself.

Each pair then receives a check for ten thousand dollars and an envelope containing a set of clues, with no two clues being alike. The will further warns that it isn't what you have but what you don't have that counts. Each pair receives cut squares of Westing Superstrength Paper Towels with one word typed on each square. All but the last pair look at their clues, as Sydelle is intent on watching and listening, which Angela admires as a smart move. Judge Ford apologizes to Sandy and says she will leave the game because of the minstrel dialect in her clues, but Sandy pleads for her to stay for the money that will help his family. She agrees. Turtle makes sure Flora memorized all their clues then she eats the papers they're printed on. E.J. Plum explains that no copies of the will will be made available, but the heirs realize they do have a copy: the shorthand of Sydelle Pulaski, now pleased with the attention she suddenly receives. Sandy asks if there's a final statement and that nothing makes sense, only to have the will conclude that death is senseless and life is senseless unless you know who you are, what you want, and which way the wind blows. In closing, the will reminds the heirs to buy Westing Paper Products.


Outside of the will itself, chess is the most important game in the novel. Tellingly, until the very end of the novel, one person plays with all the other chess players in the game: Sam Westing in his different guises. As Sam Westing, he taught Josie-Jo Ford chess as a child; as Sandy McSouthers, he secretly plays chess with Theo; and as Julian Eastman, he plays chess with his heir Turtle Wexler.

The pairs of players that Westing designates in his will are shown to be "perfect" partners as Christos Theodorakis asserts at the second meeting. Several of these partnerships serve clear functions in the game: Judge Ford is paired with Sandy McSouthers in order to keep her involved and monitor her activity; Otis Amber is paired with Crow in order to keep her in the game against her better judgment.

Raskin's love for wordplay is seen in how the absent Jake Wexler fills out the line for "position", punning on the idea of how one poses one's body as opposed to occupation; this also shows what little regard Jake has for his job as a podiatrist, which contrasts sharply to the more elaborate job descriptions offered by Denton Deere and Judge Ford.


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The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin-Free BookNotes Summary

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