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bronte-suspects

by Ana Quiring ’14 (photos by Krystal Valle ’13)

One of the most striking attributes of English students, I think, is our ability to take any event, game, or object and turn it into a literary artifact. Christmas party? Dickens reading party. End of the year bake sale? Used book bake sale. Movie night? Dead Poet Society night. And these are just Westminster Round events. The possibilities for overzealous TV show analysis, real-life symbolism (watch out, Whitworth Campanile), and relating pop songs to classic literature are nearly endless. We’re an industrious and sometimes single-mindedly nerdy bunch.

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We at Westminster Round, your English department club, decided to continue the trend with our April event, which we dubbed “Literary Live-Action Clue,” which is exactly what it sounds like. On Friday, April 19, we turned a set of classrooms in Westminster Hall into the backdrop for a sinister and nerdy murder.

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Instead of Miss Scarlet with the candlestick in the conservatory, we followed our primitive English-geek instincts and chose literary rooms, suspects, and weapons. Narnia’s Wardrobe and the Room of Requirement looked especially sinister; Rosencrantz & Guildenstern and Sherlock & Watson were under suspicion; and tuberculosis and the Norton Shakespeare Anthology were just a few of the possible weapons. Edgar Allen Poe, fallen prey to mysterious circumstances, was our victim (mostly so I could model for the tape outline on the floor, complete with mustache, and shout “Poe is no moe!” at random intervals).

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While these categories didn’t affect the procedure of the actual game (which involved searching for clues that Caroline Swinford and I hid with delighted malice in increasingly difficult hiding places) they certainly made it more fun. Caroline and I stood with Professor Fred Johnson before the start of the game, the solution envelope in hand and the possible murders spread out on their custom cards. “Well, Fred?” I asked. “Who should we pick for our murderer?”

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He hesitated over Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald before settling on the portrait of the ominously straight-faced Bronte sisters. “If anybody was going to lose it and kill somebody,” he concluded with obvious amusement, “It would certainly be them.”

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So the Brontes it was. When English majors, minors, and unwilling accomplices alike arrived, the Bronte team had the perhaps more fun job of finding our clues and re-hiding them in other places. When we reconvened for our murder mystery-style accusatory reveal, Lennie and George from Of Mice and Men correctly identified the murderers, as well as the weapon, the Thorns of Life from that Shelley poem we love to mock, and the scene of the crime, King Arthur’s Court (perhaps better known as Westminster 246).

But who were the real winners? Lennie and George, who went home with the promise of free books from the upcoming hot dog and book sale (May 10)? The Brontes, who laughed maniacally as they mislead the other teams? Or Caroline and I, who ran rampant through the building, switching off lights, turning up portentous mood music, and tucking Clue cards into the ceiling tiles? Well, who’s to say. But I think it’s safe to conclude, a good time was had by all.

Ana Quiring is an English major, probably for life. The only thing she likes better than Virginia Woolf is talking about Virginia Woolf with other English majors. Also, popcorn is pretty good.