Some Twin Peaks fans say that there are certain characters that they can see themselves in. Some women, as revealed in the brilliantly impactful Laura’s Ghost, identify with Laura because of their own traumas, sufferings, depressions. Some women can identify as Audrey because they have a slightly mischievous side. Some women are Donnas, the good friend who wants, in her heart, to be just a little bit of a bad girl. Some fans, male and female, identify as Cooper with his quirks and curiousness. Some fans see themselves as Harry or another male character (however, if you were to ask me, some people mistakenly self-identify as Albert and only see his snideness…but that’s another story, never mind anyway). But if you were to ask me, I’ve always felt that I was a composite of Annie Blackburn and Harriet Hayward. Both are quiet bookworms who really feel like they don’t fit, even in a strange community like Twin Peaks. Though much has been said about Annie, not much has been talked about Harriet and why she’s such a great character.
When we first meet Harriet, she is composing a poem for a school project. Donna comes in wanting to use the window to escape while swearing her sister to secrecy. Her sister can’t be bothered with Donna’s personal drama; instead Harriet asks Donna’s opinion of the rhyming schema for her poem and what phrase sounds better, saying that her project is important too. Snidely, Harriet also asks if this has to do with “Mike the bonehead boyfriend.” (See, Donna everyone, including you, hates your first boyfriend! Your sister has such good judgement.) Harriet also asks if her older sister could put air in her bicycle tire. Even though Harriet does eventually break her promise and tells Will about Donna’s escape, maybe worried about her sister, or maybe honorably doing the right thing by telling Will, she hesitates in doing so, trying to stay loyal to her sister as well. She also proclaims that the full blossom of the evening sounds much better for her poem.
It is in this moment that the writers reveal everything we need to know about the character. We know, like all the other Hayward girls, that she’s very book smart. She’s also a little sarcastic. We know she is dedicated to her family and the peace in her family. She’s mostly very sweet She’s a straight shooter. She has good judgement about people and situations. But what I can most identify with is her dedication to her duty. Yes, the town and her family just experienced something very traumatic. Laura was someone very close to all of them. But it doesn’t excuse her from doing her duty and completing her school work. Regardless of what happened, her job as a dedicated student comes first. That is something I’ve always been taught. That no matter what, your duty must be done, whether it is your duty to your family, your job, your other obligations.
We don’t hear from her until the opening of Season 2, when the Haywards host the Palmers for supper, what Gersten calls “The Hayward Supper Club.” It is here that we hear Harriet giving her poetic tribute “To Laura.” It’s sweet, but admittedly a little badly written, as is right for an amateur teenage poet. She is in tears while reading it, and everyone is too. Leland and Sarah are very proud of her and are very touched by her tribute to their daughter. Leland even proclaims it’s a wonderful poem.
She sits quietly at dinner. I really appreciate how well mannered the Hayward girls are that they could be with the adults during supper. That was another thing that really connects with me. My parents and other relatives always said that they were raising adults not raising children, so they treated us (my cousins and I) accordingly. We were taught to sit with the adults at the table, no children’s table or kiddie table for us. She even finds humor in her father’s wisecrack at Leland’s hair turning white. Again, we have her being a three dimensional character. Just a little flawed but fully fleshed out. She’s smart and smart-alecky. She’s mature for her age. She is also very insightful. Does she have a little of the psychic inside her when she realizes that Laura is glowing, smiling, laughing, dancing? Could she have seen Laura’s transcendence to the White Lodge at the end of Fire Walk with Me? Maybe she does show off just a little bit with the poem. But even so, it was a revealing tribute to her sister’s deceased friend. Maybe she looked up to Laura (the good Laura that everyone thought they knew) just a little bit, but still was young enough not to be touched by the darkness like Donna was.
One thing that impressed me though is the mention of her in the Final Dossier, that she went on to become a doctor and is working in Seattle. So unlike her sisters’ darkened lives, she soldiered on, beyond her parents’ terrible secrets being revealed to the world, beyond the divorce, and beyond her mother’s early demise. She gained success. Could it be because she was just old enough to be able to avoid most of the trauma? Though, she looks to be a Sophomore at the very oldest. She still had three years, at least, left with her Mom, probably having to care for her while the Hayward marriage disintegrated. Remember, Eileen is disabled living in a two story house. So unlike Gersten who may have fallen to pieces and fallen apart and Donna who fell away, Harriet did her duty and stood by her mom and may have been a big help to her. It impressed me that she probably was the one to care for Eileen and Gersten and yet still was able to go to college, get a medical degree and become a successful pediatrician. So while choosing her father’s path of profession, she probably also was able to be close to her mom. That is something to admire. Her persistence. Her responsibility her dedication to the peace within her family. Her ability to do what was necessary. She is a great character indeed.