The Westing Game Vocabulary

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

In Ellen Raskin's 'The Westing Game,' Samuel Westing has left the residents of Sunset Towers clues to solve the mystery of his death. Let's learn vocabulary that can help you follow along as the residents of Sunset Towers compete in Westing's game.

The Rules of the Game

Have you ever pretended you were a detective following a trail of clues to solve a mystery? After Sam Westing dies, the characters in The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin have to play a game of detective. The object of the game? Use the clues to figure out who is responsible for his death. The winner will inherit Westing's riches.

The characters are put into pairs, and each pair is given a set of words. These words are the clues the partners must use to figure out the mystery of how Sam Westing died. But you as readers also have your own set of clues: vocabulary words.

Just like the characters in the book, you use vocabulary words as clues to help you picture the story in your mind. Without them, the story wouldn't be as much fun. So what are some of these vocabulary words? There are lots of them in the book, but let's take some time to learn the definitions for a few of the more challenging words.

Vocabulary Words

Tenant - a person living in a building, or on land, that belongs to someone else. Most of the main characters in The Westing Game are tenants in an apartment building called Sunset Towers. The building is actually owned by Sam Westing.

Invalid - a person living with a serious illness or disability. We usually use the word ''invalid'' to describe someone whose condition is long-term and affects his or her ability to get around and do things independently.

Heir or heiress - a person who expects to receive money or some other kind of valuable property from someone else, usually in a will after the other person's death. In The Westing Game, the person who wins the game will become the Westing heir and inherit Sam Westing's fortune.

Eccentric - different from what we expect, especially when talking about someone's behavior. When someone acts differently than most people do, or behaves in a way most would not say is ''normal,'' that person might be called eccentric. A person who insists on only using purple plastic forks might be considered eccentric, for example.

Executor - the person put in charge of making sure someone's will is carried out. Edgar Jennings Plum is the executor of Sam Westing's will in The Westing Game. He has to make sure each pair of tenants gets its clues and other instructions in the game. Westing has also left several different letters to be read by the executor at different times during the game.

Inscrutable - difficult to understand or figure out. When a person is inscrutable, you might have trouble figuring out what the person thinks or feels just by looking at the expression on his or her face. Some people call the woman in the Mona Lisa painting inscrutable because you can't tell if she is smiling or not.

Transcribe - write out a copy of spoken words, or write out the full version of a speech based on shorthand notes. Sydelle Pulaski took notes on Westing's will in shorthand, a form of note-taking that uses symbols or abbreviations instead of words. When she wants to go back and use those notes to try and figure out her clues, she needs to transcribe them, or write them out using the full words.

Jabber - speak quickly, sometimes so fast that what's said isn't understandable. When you are really excited about something you are telling a friend, you might speak too fast and your words run together, making what you're saying hard to understand. If this happens, it could sound like you are jabbering.

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