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Themes

The central mystery of The Westing Game, really, ends up being about discovering who Sam Westing is. In fact, there's $200 million riding on finding Westing's fourth identity. For most of the book's characters, while they think they're competing in the Westing game, what they're really doing is establishing the identities they should have had all along. Through the process of the game, they're all redefining themselves. Maybe the message here is that there's more value in figuring out who people are – and who they want to be – than worrying about imaginary murders and crimes that never took place. The game helps the characters to discover and reveal their true selves.

Questions About Identity

  1. Of all the assumed identities in the book, which do you think is the most creative?
  2. How do each of the characters' self-identities change over the course of the book?
  3. Are there any characters in the book who don't define themselves based on what other people think of them? If so, how do you think they do that?
  4. What's the difference between identity and "position"?
  5. If you had to pick between being a bookie, a burglar, a bomber, or a mistake, which would you choose and why?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The central mystery of The Westing Game isn't who killed Sam Westing, it's the question of who any one of us really is.

Although The Westing Game turns the murder mystery trope of finding the criminal's true identity upside down, it preserves the traditional idea of positioning a person as the answer to life-altering questions.

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