The Westing Game
The Westing Game Theme of Appearances
One big idea of The Westing Game is that people aren't who they appear to be. People are both literally and figuratively in disguise. Significantly, appearances have the power to limit people whether they seem to be, objectively, positive or negative. Angela's just as metaphorically restricted by her beauty as Chris is literally hampered by his disease. Many of the characters make judgments about the others based on how they appear – your outside determines whether other people see you as pretty, ugly, ordinary, disabled, or freaky. But there's also power in letting people think you're something you're not, and the easiest way to do that is by changing what's on the outside.
For more on this, check out our section on "Character Clues."
Questions About Appearances
- Do you agree with Angela that it's what's on the inside, not what's on the outside, that counts? Do you think Angela would've ever said that if she hadn't been so pretty to begin with?
- Is the idea that "beauty's in the eye of the beholder" true in the case of this book? Why or why not?
- What do you think of Sydelle's decision to fake an illness and appear handicapped to get attention, compared to the physical disabilities that some other characters struggle with?
Chew on This
Whether they're hampered by beauty, ordinariness, or a disability, many of The Westing Game's characters are trapped by the way their bodies look; it's their struggle to define themselves outside of their appearances that makes them who they really are.
The contrast between characters' appearances and their actions show that inner worth can't be measured by what other people think of how they look.