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The Westing Game

The Westing Game


by Ellen Raskin

Analysis: What's Up With the Title?

Don't Hate The Player(s), Hate The Game

This title The Westing Game refers to a "game" the characters are playing: find the answer to Sam Westing's will, and win $200 million.

Simple, right? Ha. Nothing—not even the title—is simple in The Westing Game.

This title also refers to another, similar game that only the narrator and one character know about—the tricky game of identifying the hidden identities of Sam Westing. Both of these games are kind of like chess: there are teams playing for strategy, with pawns, queens, and sacrifices.

The Oxford English Dictionary (by the way, this might be the best dictionary to ever use in a Lit paper) tells us that the first, most popular meaning of "game" is "amusement, delight, fun, mirth, sport" (OED "game," n. 1.1).

This isn't how most of the characters in this novel take it, though: some of them are uber-serious about playing, and are playing to win. They're not here to make friends. One thing for us to think about, then, is whether this "game" is "amusing" or "fun." Does it have a darker side?

The other cool part of the title is its subtitle: "A puzzle mystery." Have you ever seen another book with that in its title? We haven't either. So, what does this part of the title do? Well, it tells us what the genre of the book is—always a handy thing—and it also tweaks that genre.

This title says that the book isn't any ol' whodunnit—it's also a puzzle. While the book keeps secrets from the characters and the reader, readers always have more pieces to the puzzle than almost any one character does. Maybe we can solve it before the characters do...

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