SPEW: Did Hermione Get It Wrong?
by Isla Neilson
The Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare, also known as SPEW, was an organization founded by Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire after seeing the way house-elves like Winky were treated during the Quidditch World Cup. Winky the house-elf was wrongly accused of using Dark magic, and she ran away from her master’s tent against her master’s wishes because she was scared when Death Eaters came. Winky was caught under a Dark Mark with the wand that performed it and was threatened with being given clothes by her master.
If a house-elf is given clothes it means that they are free. For some house-elves, this is great – for example, Dobby, who was accidentally given a sock by his master Lucius Malfoy (who abused him) and became a free elf. However, for other elves, it would seem being given clothes is the worst thing that could happen; they feel like they have disgraced the wizarding family they have been serving as well as the generations of house-elf ancestors that came before them.
Despite the seemingly horrid lifestyle that house-elves endure, house-elves seem to actually enjoy being enslaved. With few exceptions (Dobby being one of them), house-elves will feel insulted if their master attempts to pay them, give them pensions, or reward their service with anything except kindness. When Hermione Granger began hiding clothes in Gryffindor Tower in an attempt to free the house-elves of Hogwarts, the house-elves felt rather insulted, and everyone except Dobby refused to clean the Gryffindor common room in protest. It has been shown in the case of Dobby that house-elves enjoy working. After being freed, Dobby even got a job at Hogwarts doing domestic chores (though it’s worth noting, however, Albus Dumbledore was happy to pay him). It’s possible that other kind-hearted witches and wizards would pay house-elves to do their work if they really wanted it; however, house-elves in general don’t want to be paid and enjoy working.
In spite of all this, there are indications that SPEW did eventually enjoy some moderate success, though it is likely that by then, it was disbanded. Hogwarts’ house-elves participated in the Battle of Hogwarts in 1998 in an unusually bold move for their kind, although this may have been a manifestation of their extreme loyalty to their “masters”. However, it is possible that their contribution to the battle changed some people’s views since even Ron Weasley, a previous vocal critic of SPEW, demonstrated concern and sympathy for the plight of house-elves at the time, which prompted Hermione to kiss him.
Despite this, I believe that the way Hermione Granger made and promoted SPEW goes against her character and the way she would really behave. If Hermione did her research well, she would have easily realized that the majority of house-elves are happy and that SPEW would have offended them. The way she put out the hats in the Gryffindor common room was stupid of her, and Hermione – being the cleverest of the trio – should have realized that the house-elves wouldn’t take the hats. If I was Hermione, when she was promoting this organization for protecting house-elves, I would have focused more on stopping house-elf abuse, not attempting to free them.