Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
David Deans, a moderately prosperous Scottish farmer in the early 1700’s. A vigorous, stern Presbyterian, he is hurt and stunned when his younger daughter is charged with child murder, and he finds comfort only in the devotion of his older daughter Jeanie, who indirectly gets him a more fertile farm while obtaining a pardon for her sister. Although David cannot wholly approve of Jeanie’s fiancé, he is reconciled to the marriage.
Jeanie Deans, a rather plain and simple girl who shows much moral earnestness and courage when she refuses to lie to save her sister from a death sentence and then goes to London at great risk to present her case before the queen. Her force and warmth impress the duke of Argyle and the queen, who obtain a pardon for her sister, give her father a better farm, and give her betrothed a good clerical position. As a result, she is able to marry, and eventually she bears three children.
Effie Deans, Jeanie’s spoiled, pretty younger sister. When Effie’s illegitimate child disappears, she is arrested and sentenced to hang for child murder. Released through the steadfast efforts of Jeanie, she marries her betrayer, the criminal known as Geordie Robertson, and when he later acquires a title under his rightful name of George Staunton, she becomes a court beauty. Years after, she and her husband return to Scotland, where he is...
(The entire section is 800 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Heart of Midlothian Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
As indicated in the foregoing passages, Jeanie Deans is far and away the most significant character in the novel, and, it is generally agreed, one of Scott's finest achievements in realistic characterization. One early feature of the realism is Jeanie's physical appearance, which immediately sets her apart from typical romantic heroines:
her personal attractions were of no uncommon description. She was short, and rather too stoutly made for her size, had grey eyes, light-coloured hair, a round good humoured face, much tanned with the sun, and her only peculiar charm was an air of inexpressible serenity, which a good conscience, kind feelings, contented temper, and the regular discharge of all her duties, spread over her features.
This combination of description and analysis of character (no matter how simple and straightforward it is—Jeanie is simple and straightforward) provides an image of the sort of person Sir Walter wanted for his primary character, one whose moral dilemma (as many have called it, though she has little choice, given her strict background and profound sense of right and wrong) informs the essence of the book.
Jeanie is clearly the heroine of the story, and her sister, Effie, provides a dramatic contrast with Jeanie. While not a villain, Effie is more of a weak victim, easily led and foolish in her passions, and of a lesser character than Jeanie. Some critics have complained...
(The entire section is 1749 words.)