Turtle Wexler in The Westing Game
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The Turtle And The Heir
We're just going to say it: we're 100% #TeamTurtle. This is the girl we all wish we had as a best friend back in elementary school—smart, feisty, and weirdly precocious when it comes to playing the stock market. Hmm. Actually, we'd love to have her as a BFF at any age.
Turtle is the youngest of the Westing heirs and one of the most misunderstood. She's also one of the most intelligent characters and one of the most committed to playing the Westing game. What's more, she's pretty much the heroine: she's the main-est main character and, at thirteen, she's pretty close in age to the expected audience of Westing Game readers.
But just in case you're not the same age as Turtle, don't let that stop you from identifying with her: her qualities of determination, cleverness, and loyalty, combined with her habit of kicking people hard in the shins when they do something she sees as wrong, make her sympathetic for and interesting to readers in all age groups.
A Turtle With A Heart Of Gold
Even though her sister Angela is favored by just about everybody because of how dang pretty she is, Turtle still loves Angela and sticks up for her. She even takes credit for the bombings so Angela won't have to, losing her important braid in the process. See, Turtle is a good sister, and she tries to be a good daughter. Her mother may treat her like the lesser child, but that's made Turtle strong where Angela's weak, and assertive in ways the other women in her family are not:
These were her mother's friends and the newly married daughters of her mother's friends—and Turtle, who was leaning against the wall, arms folded, smirking. Lucky Turtle, the neglected child. (16.4)
One sore point for Turtle is that she isn't conventionally pretty, not in the ways that her mother and sister are. But instead of letting this lack of beauty make her weak, Turtle strengthens her ambition and her desire for a career. By the time she's eighteen, Theo's describing her as "attractive" (29.22). And although at the end of the book Turtle self-deprecatingly describes herself as not pretty, she's laughing when she says it.
But there are other reasons for hearting Turtle besides her good heart and her modesty. It seems that Turtle deserves to end up as the heir Westing's fortune for several reasons:
- She's technically related to Westing (always a good thing for an heir to be) and, as the judge points out, Turtle both looks and acts like Westing... especially in the trial scene.
- When the players are working in teams to each solve what they think is the central mystery of the will, her plan of action doesn't place blame on anyone; she shows initiative and makes money. While that's not the right answer, it's not like the other characters do any better with their original clues.
- She's the only heir to really treat Sandy (Mr. Westing in disguise) as a friend and equal, and she's the only person he encourages to keep playing the game.
- And while both the judge and Turtle realize that Sam Westing has more than one identity, it is Turtle who does the best "close reading" of the will at the end and fills in the missing blanks.
Once Turtle has won, we get other glimpses of why she really is the rightful heir. Five years after the game is over, she wins a game of chess against Sam Westing. It's her second win against him. Remember, other characters like Theo and Judge Ford also played chess with Sam Westing... but neither of them ever won. While a game of chess might not have as big a prize as the Westing game did, in a way, for Turtle, the stakes are just as high: it's a test of strategy against "the master" (29.24) and one that only she, it seems, can pass.
At the end of the book, we see her become the kind of mentor to others that Sam Westing was to her, as we see her go to play chess with another intelligent little girl—her niece.
Turtle Wexler in The Westing Game Study Group
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