In The Heart of Midlothian, Effie Deans and Jeanie Deans are two young adult, unmarried sisters. Their very distinct personalities contribute both to the overall situation with which Sir Walter Scott’s novel is concerned and to the solution of the complicated problem. Effie is impractical and impulsive, with romantic ideas that make her easily misled. She has become entangled in a sexual relationship that leads to her becoming pregnant and having an illegitimate child. When the baby disappears and is presumed dead, Effie is arrested. Her accounts of her actions and alleged inability to remember key events do not help her; rather, she seems to be sabotaging her own defense.
Jeanie initially seems the polar opposite of her sister. She is a straightforward, practical, and unimaginative person who values honesty and family obligations. After Effie’s arrest, Jeanie’s loyalty to her sister and conviction in her innocence largely shape the course of her own life. While Jeanie has a male romantic partner, they do not have a premarital sexual relationship. The sisters prove similar in their loyal attitudes. Effie will not betray her lover’s identity, and Jeanie steadfastly supports her sister. Jeanie’s efforts and obvious integrity prove instrumental in getting Effie pardoned.