Which characters have an actual motive for killing Sam Westing in the book "The Westing Game"? I know that Sam Westing died of natural causes, but if he were murdered, what would the motives be?

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hgarey71 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Ellen Raskin's novel The Westing Game, Sam Westing is a millionaire who dies. In his will, he claims he was murdered, that one of his heirs (sixteen nieces and nephews) did it, and that if they participate in a game, they will be given clues that will reveal the identity of the murderer. 

Many of the heirs had motives to kill Sam Westing. James Hoo is a restaurant owner who is bitter and believes Sam Westing stole an idea from him that made Sam prosperous and left James Hoo struggling. In a phone conversation, one of the heirs, J.J. Ford, finds out about the motive of James Hoo. 

Mr. Hoo waddled in with a tray of appetizers. The judge pointed him to the serving buffet and apologized to her caller. "I'm sorry, would you repeat that name?"

"James Hoo. He claimed Westing stole his idea of the disposable paper diaper." 

Berthe Erica Crow was married to Sam Westing, and when the heirs get all the clues together, the missing letters from the stanza of "America the Beautiful" spell out her name. Since they were married previously, she could have motives for killing him due to the nature of their failed relationship, and a desire to get her share of his wealth. 

At one point, Sydelle Pulaski hints that the murderer may be Chris Theodorakis because, as she says: "A wheelchair, what a perfect alibi." However, no motive is given for him to be the murderer.

Grace Wexler is an unlikeable character in many ways. She is pretentious and desires the inheritance money. She makes racist comments toward the judge and treats her daughters unfairly. But just being unlikeable doesn't prove a motive for murder. 

Of course, in the end, readers learn there was no murder committed.  



sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Any and/or all of the characters that got a letter to partake in the "game" have motives to kill Sam Westing; this is one reason why they all suspect each other. They all know that each person has his or her own reasons for killing Mr. Westing; however, they all share one similar reason. Mr. Westing is very wealthy, and they each stand to gain a lot by having access to that money.

For example, Chris Theodorakis has motive to do it and an alibi. Nobody would suspect him of killing Mr. Westing because of his wheelchair and condition, but Mr. Westing's money would allow him to seek the treatment he needs for his unknown illness. Angela Wexler has motive too. The money would grant her independence from her mother. Angela had a taste of that kind of independence from when she went to her one year of college, and she would like to be a doctor someday; however, she doesn't have the money to do that. Westing's fortune could make that happen.

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Several characters have personal connections to Sam Westing and many of them are not positive experiences.  Each of the following characters have potential motives for killing Sam Westing:

  • James Hoo: Westing stole and tried to sell his idea for paper innersoles for shoes.
  • Erica Berthe Crow: is Sam Westing's ex-wife.  She could have any number of personal reasons from the marriage to kill her ex-husband and claim his inheritance.
  • Grace Wexler: a distant neice of Westing, she might have killed him because of her family connection to the inheritance.
  • Mr. Theodorakis: he was the childhood sweetheart of Westing's daughter.  The affair was broken up by the girls mother.  A distant motive might be tied to some sort of payback for a broken heart.
  • Sandy McSouthers: Worked in the Westing Paper Plant for two decades and was fired by Westing personally, and given no pension.