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In Ellen Raskin's novel The Westing Game, the reading of the will is the inciting action, the moment where everything changes and the real action of the story begins. The will is just what it sounds like--the last words of someone who has died--and in this case the will belongs to Samuel W. Westing.
Before he died, Westing arranged for all sixteen of his heirs (his nieces and nephews) to come together in the mansion in order to hear the will. Another arrangement he made before he died was a kind of riddle which they had to work together to solve; whoever solves the mystery will win Westing's entire inheritance of two hundred million dollars, certainly a prize worth the effort.
Of course there is nothing easy about solving this riddle. Just when the lawyer who is reading the will is about to tell them what, exactly, they must look for, one of the potential heirs interrupts and the lawyer just keeps reading; so, they do not quite know what they should be looking for in this quest. The fifth part of the will reads this as follows:
Hail to thee, O land of opportunity! You have made me, the son of poor immigrants, rich, powerful, and respected.So take stock in America, my heirs, and sing in praise of this generous land. You, too, may strike it rich who dares to play the Westing game.
After a mandatory moment of prayer for the dead man, the heirs begin their search.
For more interesting analysis and summaries, see the eNotes site linked for you below.
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