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Heirs of Mystery: The Westing Game Characters

written by: Laura Wise • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 1/30/2013

"The Westing Game," a Newberry Medal-winning children's novel, is a contest between 16 heirs for the inheritance of their "Uncle Sam" Westing. As cleverly constructed as a chess game, "The Westing Game" is a mind-twister. You might need this character list to keep up!

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    The Wexler Family

    There are 16 Westing heirs -- the same number of pieces in a chess game. Dr. Jake Wexler: His legitimate career is a podiatrist --- but privately, he's a bookie (a gambler). His sense of humor and spontaneity don't seem to match very well with his wife's snobbish personality. He and Jimmy Hoo switch spouses in the Westing Game --- they are each paired with the other's wife. Jake is kind and friendly to Mrs. Hoo, who speaks little English; however, he soon becomes jealous of his wife's friendship with Mr. Hoo.

    Grace Windsor (Windkloppel) Wexler: A pretentious social climber, Grace Wexler is the niece of Sam Westing. A shallow woman, she dotes on beautiful Angela and ignores her other daughter. Grace dreams of being an interior decorator. Paired with Jimmy Hoo in the Westing Game, she eventually realizes that her true calling is the restaurant business.

    Angela Wexler: With blonde hair, blue eyes and an angel face, Angela resembles the deceased Violet Westing --- in more ways than one. Angela completed a year of college and wants to be a doctor; however, her mother is planning her dream wedding with plastic surgery intern Denton Deere. Painfully obedient to her mother, Angela sets off a firework bomb rather than speak out against the engagement. She ends up in the hospital while her sister is blamed for the bombing. Her partner Sydelle Pulaski is also hospitalized with injuries from an earlier bombing.

    "Turtle" Wexler: Turtle is intelligent, but bitter about being ignored and neglected by her mother. She takes out her anger by kicking people's shins. However, she finds a substitute mother in Flora Baumbach, her partner. Ambitious and number-savvy, Turtle decides that Westing's instruction to "buy Westing paper products" means to invest in the stock market. Turtle eventually wins the Westing inheritance, but never reveals the secret of the game.

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    The Hoo Family

    James Shin Hoo: Nicknamed Jimmy, he runs a gourmet Chinese restaurant. His true dream was to be an inventor --- until the Westing company stole his idea. He is unsatisfied with his "dumb jock" son and dismissive of his wife. His pairing with Grace Wexler results in an unlikely friendship. By the end of the book, she has taken over the restaurant business while he is marketing a more successful invention.

    Sun Lin Hoo: A native of China, "Sunny" is Jimmy Hoo's lonely wife. Overlooked by most, she finds a friend in Jake Wexler, her game partner who teaches her English. She wants to visit China and is unhappy with cooking and wearing old-fashioned dresses. She also resorts to stealing to save money for the trip.

    Doug Hoo: Doug is a high school track star who doesn't care about winning the inheritance --- he'll pay for college through athletic scholarships. Turtle has a crush on him, but he despises her because she kicks shins. His partner and best friend is Theo Theodorakis. Doug goes on to have an Olympic-medal-winning career.

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    The Theodorakis Family

    George Theodorakis: Not one of the heirs, his Westing connection is Violet. He and Violet, Sam's daughter, were childhood sweethearts. However, her mother broke them up. Rather than marry her mother's choice, Violet drowned herself. Mr. Theodorakis now runs the cafe in Sunset Towers.

    Catherine Theodorakis: A pale, worried woman, Mrs. Theodorakis is not a Westing heir either. Her main concern is that if they win, the money could be used to help her son Chris, who is confined to a wheelchair.

    Theo Theodorakis: Theo is a devoted older brother who wants to use the inheritance to help the disabled Chris. He believes the key to the Westing Game lies in a chess game or with the odd Otis Amber. Partnered with Doug, he is sometimes annoyed by his friend's lack of enthusiasm. Theo has a crush on Angela, but ends up married to Turtle later in life.

    Christos "Chris" Theodorakis: Chris is an avid birdwatcher who wants more than medical help and pity. But without the inheritance money, his parents won't be able to afford to treat his disease and send him to college. Paired with intern Denton Deere, Chris also develops a close friendship with Judge J.J. Ford and Flora Baumbach. His condition inspires Denton to become a neurologist.

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    Other Heirs and Players

    Sam Westing would sacrifice his queen, tricking his opponent into a checkmate. Otis Amber: Otis is a delivery boy in his sixties. He wears an aviator helmet and goggles, giggles a lot and is mentally retarded. He is paired with Crow, and together they run the Good Salvation Soup Kitchen. He eventually marries her. Theo believes Otis is the key to the Westing Game. Certainly he's not what he seems: in the climatic "court" scene, Otis reveals his true identity as a private investigator in disguise.

    Berthe Erica Crow: Known as "Crow," she is an excessively religious woman and recovered alcoholic. She works as the cleaning woman in Sunset Towers and adores Angela, whom she identifies with her daughter --- Violet Westing. Crow is Westing's former wife who blames herself for her daughter's death.

    Judge J.J. Ford: Judge Josie-Jo Ford is the first black woman judge in the state of Wisconsin. A logical, severe woman, she goes about playing the game as she would solving a criminal case. She was a former protege of Sam Westing, but never beat him at chess. He did, however, pay for her Harvard education, and the judge lives in fear that he will one day call on her to pay back the debt --- in money or in legal favors. Her partner is Sandy McSouthers, the doorman of Sunset Towers.

    Flora Baumbach: Flora made Violet Westing's wedding dress and is working on Angela's. She had a mentally retarded daughter who died at the age of nineteen. She finds a friend in Chris, who feels sorry for her, and a substitute daughter in Turtle, her partner.

    Denton Deere: A pompous character, Denton often pretends to know more than he does. He's a plastic surgery intern, Angela's fiance, Chris's partner and one of Turtle's least favorite people. At first seeming callous and shallow, he eventually befriends Chris, helps him with a new medication and decides to study neurology.

    Sydelle Pulaski: Sydelle is the mistake in Sunset Towers. Westing meant for Sybil Pulaski to be his heir. However, it's a mistake that works out for the best. A secretary, Sydelle has the foresight to record the reading of the will in shorthand. She and her partner Angela also become fast friends. Sydelle's quirk is her painted crutches, which she claims to use because of a debilitating illness. In reality, she only wants a little attention.

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    The Many Faces of "Uncle Sam" Westing

    The last heir is Sandy McSouthers, the doorman and J.J. Ford's partner. In reality, "Sandy" is a constructed identity for Samuel Westing, who is not really dead at all. He faked his own death, put a wax dummy in the coffin, and started the Westing Game to see who was worthy to be his heir. An immigrant, Sam Westing's real name was once "Windkloppel," which he changed for marketing purposes. His nickname was "Windy," and he created four identities based on the four winds: Sam Westing the businessman, Sandy McSouthers the doorman, Barney Northrup the real estate agent, and Julian R. Eastman, Chairman of the Board.

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    Other Characters in "The Westing Game"

    Dr. Sikes: The lifelong friend and doctor of Sam Westing, Dr. Sikes remains a mysterious figure whose connection to the Westing Game is uncertain until the very end. He was in the car crash when Westing's face was maimed, and he himself has a permanent limp from the same crash. He assists Sam Westing in his scheme to find the perfect heir, pronouncing the eccentric millionaire "dead" and playing along with the game.

    E.J. (Edward Jennings) Plum: Plum is the young, incompetent lawyer chosen as Westing's executor. He was probably chosen because a better, more experienced lawyer would have realized something fishy was going on and stopped the game.

    Sandy's dentist: Turtle goes to have her toothache repaired by Sandy's dentist. She notices the sets of realistic false teeth on his shelf, and gets the inkling of an idea that Sandy might not be all he says he is. She later learns that indeed, the dentist prepared chipped dentures to disguise Sam Westing as Sandy the doorman and bucktoothed Barney Northrup. Even though the dentist is unnamed, his bit role is nonetheless important. He illustrates that all the characters of the Westing Game are vital to solving the puzzle and winning the inheritance.

References

  • Image: King by nruboc under Sxu License.
  • Image: Queen by mconners under MorgueFile License.
  • Raskin, Ellen. The Westing Game. E.P. Dutton, 1978.

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