The Heart of Midlothian Analysis
by Sir Walter Scott

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Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

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*Scotland. Scott’s novelistic portrait of Scotland as a country, The Heart of Midlothian deals with the east and the west of Scotland, with Highlands and Lowlands. The novel presents the people of Scotland from many regions and classes, and the Scottish landscape in all its variety is described with great force and vividness. Scott sees Scotland as a country of beauty, independence, religious passion, courage, and, sometimes, violence and disruption. The finest qualities of Scotland are embodied in Jeanie Deans, who is virtually a national symbol in the novel.


*England. Scotland’s rich and powerful neighbor to the south. The novel is set early in the eighteenth century, shortly after Scotland and England have been united under one crown; however, it is still an uneasy union. Scott shows an England that is more civilized than Scotland but also more corrupt. The Scottish heroine Jeanie Deans’s simple honesty forms a striking contrast to the social facades and political intrigues of England. Also, England’s attitude toward Scotland tends to be impatient and dismissive. Its intrusion into Scottish matters of law produces at least in part the legal injustice and cruelty that are at the novel’s center. Jeanie Deans’s most memorable encounter with England comes at Richmond, where she sees the luxuriant beauty of southern England but expresses a preference for Scotland. There, she also encounters and finally wins over Queen Caroline of England.


*Midlothian. Old name for the region of Scotland around the Firth of Forth and Edinburgh.

*Tolbooth of Edinburgh

*Tolbooth of Edinburgh (edh-en-behr-OH). Edinburgh prison in which Effie Deans is confined. Known as the “Heart of Midlothian,” the prison in the novel represents a justice that has been corrupted by politics, bad laws, English prejudice and power, and legal technicalities. The dark walls and grated windows of the Tolbooth form a symbolic and actual menace that hangs over Effie Deans and Scotland in general. The indignant Porteous rioters in the novel storm the Tolbooth, but Scott shows that the only effective answer to the inhumanity represented by the Tolbooth is provided by the love and truth of Jeanie Deans.

*Edinburgh-London road

*Edinburgh-London road. Long road that Jeanie Deans travels in search of a pardon for her condemned sister Effie. As Jeanie, barefoot and alone, makes her often difficult way along this road she rises in her grand simplicity to heroic stature, and Scott compares her journey to those in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (1678, 1684). The great distance she travels and the difficulties she overcomes on this road form the central episode of the novel and the novel’s greatest symbol of Jeanie’s superb courage and determination.

Deans house

Deans house. Home of Jeanie Deans and her father at St. Leonard’s Crags through much of the novel. Jeanie’s competent, careful, thoughtful, and wise management of the house is the school in which she learns the fundamental wisdom and integrity that make her one of Scott’s great characters. Her simple life in the house, concerned with thrift, cleaning, making good cheeses, and tending livestock, may seem unromantic, but it is in the house of St. Leonard’s Crags that Jeanie’s character is formed.


*Dumbartonshire. Beautiful and well-administered realm of the duke of Argyle. After the duke becomes Jeanie’s patron, Jeanie, her husband, and her father all move to this idyllic region where the duke’s wisdom and generosity create a world which is happy and harmonious. The duke of Argyle’s Dumbartonshire provides a fitting reward for Jeanie’s goodness and a dramatic contrast to the tragedies of Edinburgh, the corruptions of London, and the neglect of Dumbiedikes.

*Muschat’s Cairn

*Muschat’s Cairn. Mysterious and frightening place near Edinburgh where Jeanie first meets the guilty George Staunton. Associated with ghosts, Gothic ruins, a horrible murder, and...

(The entire section is 2,940 words.)