Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Characters/Winky
|Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Character|
Role in the Books
We first meet Winky when she is apparently holding a seat in the Top Box at the Quidditch World Cup for Bartemius Crouch Sr., despite the fact that she is scared of heights. Hermione is incensed that anyone could be so insensitive as to subject a house-elf to such fear. We later see Winky running across a path in the forest near the stadium, apparently talking to herself, and finally she is found Stunned at the spot in the forest where the Dark Mark was conjured, holding the wand that had conjured it. After inconclusive questioning by the Ministry wizards there gathered, Bartemius says he is going to dismiss her, saying "This means Clothes!" Winky is devastated at her dismissal.
We meet her again twice in the kitchens at Hogwarts; Dobby has apparently secured a job for her with the school. Both times, she is simply sitting by the fireplace, mourning her lost Master, and getting steadily more drunk on Butterbeer.
Finally, when Barty Crouch Jr. is unmasked, he says that Winky had been one of the guardians set over him in his captivity in his father's house; and that in fact Winky had been not only holding a seat for him at the World Cup, but he himself had been present there, and it was he who had conjured the Dark Mark, with a wand he had stolen from Harry, leaving Winky to take the blame. Professor Dumbledore summons Winky to take care of him while they wait for the Minister for Magic.
Dobby mentions that he has, a few times, needed a place to put Winky so she could sleep off the effects of the Butterbeer, and has found the Room of Requirement. Harry then uses this room for meetings of Dumbledore's Army.
Winky is a house elf, and capable of the wandless magic common to her species. It is noted that house elf magic is of a different variety than that used by human wizards and witches, and we get the impression that it is difficult for humans to prevent house-elf magic.
Winky is unable to contemplate life away from her masters, even when she has been dismissed from service. Though nominally working for Hogwarts, Winky spends all her time worrying about how the Crouch family is getting along without her. This perpetual dwelling on her past prevents her from doing much of anything.
Relationships with Other Characters
As the dedicated house-elf she is, Winky professes undying loyalty to Bartemius Crouch, and, as we find out later, to his son, Barty Crouch Jr. This loyalty long outlasts her tenure with that family.
Dobby seems to think Winky is a close friend. It is true that they entered Hogwarts together, but Winky is probably too awash in her own grief to think of Dobby at all.
Once one is aware of the presence of Barty Crouch Jr., Winky's antics at the Quidditch World Cup become much more intelligible. In every case she is extremely close to Barty, who is under an invisibility cloak, trying unsuccessfully to keep him under control while being constrained by her station to not hurt him. It also becomes obvious why Bartemius Crouch is dismissing Winky. Like all the other wizards there present, Harry, and the reader, feels that dismissal is far too severe a punishment for being found holding Harry's wand. Knowing that Barty was there, and guessing, as Bartemius did, that it was Barty who conjured the Dark Mark, the reader can see that Winky's crime was allowing Barty to get out of her control, and letting him steal a wand. This would certainly be serious enough to warrant dismissal, though we have to wonder how Bartemius thought he could control Barty on his own, if Winky was unable to.
Hermione, largely triggered by what she perceives as Winky's slavery, embarks on a mission to gain the rights for house-elves that humans already enjoy. While we see Dobby as an example of what elves can be when freed, we note that few witches or wizards share Hermione's opinion. Hagrid, for instance, tells Hermione that the elves are happier as they are, and in our visit to the Hogwarts kitchen, we see that the indentured house-elves seem to share that opinion. At one point it is mentioned that Hermione believes the hundred or more house-elves in the Hogwarts kitchens may be swayed by Dobby's obvious happiness at being freed. Harry privately thinks that Winky provides a much more powerful counter-example. It is likely that Winky was brought into the story in this way specifically to highlight the complexity of making such a sweeping societal change.
Hermione, like many her age, is convinced that she has found a great injustice and must tackle it head-on. The older reader can see that, in the real world, such attempts are doomed; one person in pitched battle against an entrenched tradition can not expect to make any headway. It is to the author's credit that she allows us to watch as Hermione tries to alter the status quo and fails; many authors would not see fit to allow any of the heroes to fail, which, in this case, could set up impossible expectations for a child's ability to change the world. While characters like Hagrid, Sirius, and the Malfoy family give us the wizard's view of this battle, Winky and the kitchen elves show us the other side: that in many cases the nominally oppressed see their condition as enviable, and resist change more strongly than the oppressors. The author could have been using this episode to show that this sort of change is best brought about from within, stealthily, rather than by trying to meet it head-on.