In Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game, what descriptions of Sam Westing's or Windy Windkloppel's physical traits can be found? What did Sam Westing actually look like?  

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game, we learn most of the physical descriptions of Samuel W. Westing early on in the novel when Turtle, youngest daughter of Jake and Grace Wexler, reads the obituary in the newspaper after having run screaming from the Westing house.

One thing we know about Samuel W. Westing from reading the obituary is that he was found dead at the age of 65, in his lakeside Westingtown mansion, after having disappeared for 13 years (p. 21). We also know he liked to dress up in costumes during his annual gala 4th of July celebration and went disguised as Ben Franklin, Uncle Sam, a drummer boy, and even Betsy Ross (p. 22). A couple of pages further, we learn that Turtle ran screaming from the Westing house because she was the one to find him dead in his "four-poster" bed; she had also found an envelope on his bedside table on which he had scrawled the words "If I am found dead in bed." The narrator further describes, "Through her scream she had seen the white-bearded face" (p. 23-24). Hence, we know that not only was he 65 when he died, he also had a white beard.

Other than those details though, it can be said that author Raskin relied more heavily on describing Westing using indirect characterization rather than direct. Indirect characterization happens when an author reveals information about the character through the character's actions, things the character says, and other characters' responses to the character. In contrast, direct characterization is when an author relays information about the character using very vivid and often physical descriptions. Read Write Think, associated with the National Council of Teachers of English, gives us the following example of direct characterization: "The patient boy and quiet girl were both well mannered and did not disobey their mother" ("Defining Characterization").

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