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In Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game, we meet the occupants of Sunset Towers, a recently constructed apartment building. The tenants are as different as can be, and seemingly unrelated. They are, therefore, surprised when they are called as heirs to the reading of Sam Westing's will—the recently deceased wealthy industrialist.
The first thing the will makes note of is that Westing returned to the area to live with those who liked him and those who did not. And he has called together his sixteen nieces and nephews:
FIRST • I returned to live among my friends and my enemies. I came home to seek my heir, aware that in doing so I faced death. And so I did.
Today I have gathered together my nearest and dearest, my sixteen nieces and nephews.
There is some confusion over this first statement, as the people gathered were not aware that they were related to Sam Westing in any way—or, therefore, to each other. However, it is the second point in the will that really shakes the group up:
SECOND • I, Samuel W. Westing, hereby swear that I did not die of natural causes. My life was taken from me—by one of you.
So while the people gathered for the reading of the will may at first be struck by the fact that there are other people competing with them for the money to soon be forthcoming from their inheritance, they also now learn that someone among has been a threat to Westing. This provides an extremely important piece of information—that someone in the room is "has taken" the life of Sam Westing.
By delivering this monumental detail, the suspense of the story is heightened—because it could be anyone! This chapter also introduces the "game"—the contest. There are rules to be followed; the members of the group will split into pairs. Each group is given money and clues; and, the pairs must work together or drop out.
Someone will be the winner! The challenge is thrown down in this chapter—the plot development will show who can figure out the clues and work with his/her partner.
While the novel is called The Westing Game, the idea of someone taking Westing's life is daunting—making it seem an especially dangerous "game."
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