Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*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...

(The entire section is 773 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In discussing this novel, one should keep in mind the importance of setting: the special significance of Jeanie's moral choice and Effie's...

(The entire section is 596 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The three main areas of technique that have attracted attention are plot, characterization, and style. Of these, plot is the most often...

(The entire section is 999 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The principal social concern in The Heart of Midlothian, one of Sir Walter Scott's best works, is a remarkably modern one. The chief...

(The entire section is 922 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Criscuola, Margaret M. “The Porteous Mob: Fact and Truth in The Heart of Midlothian.” English Language Notes 22, no. 1 (September, 1984): 43-50. Concludes that the reality underlying this historical episode illuminates Scott’s use of history and the ways in which he transformed fact into fiction.

Davis, Jana. “Sir Walter Scott’s The Heart of Midlothian and Scottish Common-Sense Morality.” Mosaic 21 (Fall, 1988): 55-63. Common sense, morality, and Calvinism interact in the novel, as characters must choose between the law, their religion, and what their moral sense tells them is right.

Kerr, James. “Scott’s Fable of Regeneration: The Heart of Midlothian.” English Literary History 53, no. 4 (Winter, 1986): 801-820. Sees the novel as a political admonition, and Jeanie Deans as a model of virtue. Deals more fully with the last quarter of the novel than many other commentaries do.

Millgate, Jane. “Scott and the Law: The Heart of Midlothian.” In Rough Justice: Essays on Crime in Literature, edited by M. L. Friedland. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991. Investigates legal aspects of the plot. Scott was a lawyer, a sheriff, and sometimes a judge. Millgate asserts that no other novelist deals more often with the effects of law on human destiny than does Scott.

Thompson, Jon. “Sir Walter Scott and Madge Wildfire: Strategies of Containment in The Heart of Midlothian.” Literature and History 13 (Autumn, 1987): 188-199. Calls attention to the importance of a less obvious character and Scott’s treatment of her. Madge is insane throughout but still affects the other characters.