The Westing Game

by Ellen Raskin

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Who is the thief in The Westing Game?

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Madame Hoo, the immigrant wife of the owner of the Chinese restaurant at the top of Sunset Towers, has been stealing trinkets to sell in order to go back to China.  She speaks very little English, and has been lonely and isolated since she came to the U.S. to become Mr. Hoo's second wife.  She has been working in the kitchen of the restaurant, and has no friends outside of her husband and stepson.  With no one to confide in, Madame Hoo has become desperate to return to China.  Hoo's restaurant has not been doing well, so she miguidedly believes that she must steal things to sell in order to get money to go back to her homeland.

She reveals herself as the thief in a touching scene in Chapter 26:

     A trembling Madame Hoo stood before the judge.  "For to go to China," she said timidly, setting a scarf-tied bundle on the desk.  Weeping softly, the thief shuffled back to her seat.
     The judge unknotted the scarf and let the flowered silk float down around the booty; her father's railroad watch, a pearl necklace, cuff links, a pin and earrings set, a clock.  (Grace Wexler's silver cross never did turn up.)
     "My pearls," Flora Baumbach exclaimed with delight.  "Wherever did you find them, Madame Hoo?  I'm so grateful." 
     Madame Hoo did not understand why the round little lady was smiling at her.  Cautiously she peered through her fingers.  Oh!  The other people did not smile.  They know she is bad.  And Mr. Hoo, his anger is drowned in shame. 
     "Perhaps stealing is not considered stealing in China," Sydelle Pulaski said in a clumsy gesture of kindness. (168)

Madame Hoo confesses because she believes that she will be found out.  She is not prosecuted for her petty crimes, and the rest of the heirs, though embarassed, feel pity for her. 

Source: Raskin, Ellen.  The Westing Game.  New York: Avon Books, 1978. 

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