When Hermione discovers that Hogwarts functions thanks to a small army of house-elves--small elves that secretly perform all the domestic labor at the school but aren't paid for their work--she immediately jumps into action and forms S.P.E.W., or the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare. She does this without consulting the elves themselves, however, and the elves are much less excited about her crusade for their liberation than Hermione is. However, the novel also introduces the reader to a number of other non-human creatures who would appreciate the kind of help and activism that Hermione espouses, including the giants (which Dumbledore says want rights and recognition) and goblins (which are discriminated against throughout the novel). In this way, Goblet of Fire sheds light on the prejudice existing in the Wizarding world that ideally could be helped through the activism of someone like Hermione, while also illustrating how activists like Hermione will never be successful unless they listen to the individuals they'd like to help.
Though S.P.E.W. isn't the trio's first introduction to house-elves, this is the first time that Hermione comes into close contact with them. She becomes enraged when she meets Winky, a house-elf who serves Ministry official Mr. Crouch, in the top box at the Quidditch World Cup. Winky is deathly afraid of heights, yet the binding rules surrounding house-elves and their masters mean that she has no ability to go against Mr. Crouch and is instead forced to remain in a situation that terrifies her. As far as Hermione is concerned, this abuse is unacceptable. This view intensifies when, after the Death Eaters begin setting tents on fire in the night hours after the match, Hermione sees Winky struggling to walk through the forest away from the danger--Mr. Crouch told her to stay in the tent and therefore, Winky is disobeying by trying to protect herself. Hermione then witnesses Mr. Crouch fire Winky in a cruel and dramatic fashion. All of this impresses upon Hermione that Wizarding society isn't as just as she might have once thought. As she learns about house-elves, she discovered that this kind of unpaid labor is commonly found in wealthy Wizarding families, like the Malfoys and the Crouches. However, as Hermione moves to create S.P.E.W., the novel suggests that Hermione's big oversight is shaping her activism around Winky and Dobby's (who used to serve the Malfoys and was abused by the family) experiences in private homes.
Upon arriving at Hogwarts and discovering that there are also house-elves at school, Hermione quickly develops S.P.E.W., through which she begins to campaign for Elfish liberation, fair working conditions, and representation at the Ministry of Magic. Hermione does this, however, without consulting the house-elves themselves. While Dobby loves his freedom from the Malfoys and delights in the fact that Dumbledore is willing to pay him and give him days off, he's an outlier--and he knows it. The majority of the elves in the kitchen appear happy to serve and forcibly eject Hermione from the kitchen when she starts to talk about their current oppression and future liberation. On the other end of the spectrum, Winky remains loyal to Mr. Crouch months after being fired and never adjusts to her "freedom"--indeed, she eventually turns to butterbeer, which is extremely intoxicating for house-elves, and regularly drinks to excess.
Through all of this, Hermione continues to insist that house-elves need to be liberated and deserve pay like anyone else. Though the reader is encouraged to sympathize with the house-elves and their plight, especially at the hands of wizards like Lucius Malfoy and Mr. Crouch, it's also important to note that Hermione actively ignores what the very beings she's trying to liberate are telling her: that they don't need or want her help. This all suggests that though Hermione might have the right idea--Winky's mistreatment in Goblet of Fire and Dobby's earlier mistreatment by the Malfoys are proof of this--campaigning on behalf of all house-elves for total liberation isn't an appropriate avenue for an outsider like Hermione to take. Instead, to be truly successful, the novel suggests she'd be better off listening to what they do want, if anything, and helping them achieve those goals.
In addition to introducing the reader to the plight of the house-elves, Goblet of Fire also introduces several other non-human creatures that are peripheral parts of the Wizarding world, including goblins and giants. In particular, the revelation that Hagrid's mother is a giantess and Ron's explanation as to why Hagrid never chose to share that information offers more insight into how the Wizarding world treats its non-human members. Ron explains to Harry that giants are nasty, violent creatures who are known for their cruelty and, in the years after Voldemort's fall from power, have all gone into hiding in faraway mountains. As Harry mentions, anyone who knows Hagrid as a kind and compassionate person won't care about his parentage, but this doesn't mean that the rest of the world won't discriminate against him or treat him differently.
When Fudge and Dumbledore discuss Voldemort's impending rise to power, Dumbledore advocates for even more inclusion in the Wizarding world. He insists that if Fudge wants to be able to most effectively fight Voldemort, he needs to send envoys to the giants before Voldemort does, as Dumbledore believes that Voldemort will promise the giants that he's the only wizard willing to recognize them as true members of society. This suggests, first of all, that there are non-human creatures in the Wizarding world who do want to be a real part of society and want to be recognized as such. Second, Dumbledore's warning indicates that it's essential to embrace non-human beings, give them their rights, and create a society that will accept them and treat them as equals--for if the wizards currently in power do not, others with less righteous goals will mobilize those marginalized communities for their own nefarious gain. This is where, in an ideal world, an activist like Hermione would come in, as someone like her would be able to campaign for giants' rights from the inside and, through doing so, create a more welcoming and united Wizarding world that would be capable of fighting together against true evil.
Activism and Diversity ThemeTracker
Activism and Diversity Quotes in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
"House-elves is not paid, sir!" she said in a muffled squeak. "No, no, no. I says to Dobby, I says, go find yourself a nice family and settle down, Dobby. He is getting up to all sorts of high jinks, sir, what is unbecoming of a house-elf. You goes racketing around like this, Dobby, I says, and next thing I hear you's up in front of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, like some common goblin."
"It's all in Hogwarts: A History. Though, of course, that book's not entirely reliable. A Revised History of Hogwarts would be a more accurate title. Or A Highly Biased and Selective History of Hogwarts, Which Glosses Over the Nastier Aspects of the School."
"What are you on about?" said Ron, though Harry thought he knew what was coming.
"House-elves!" said Hermione, her eyes flashing. "Not once, in over a thousand pages, does Hogwarts: A History mention that we are all colluding in the oppression of a hundred slaves!"
"Why are you telling me?" he asked.
Harry looked at him in disbelief. He was sure Cedric wouldn't have asked that if he had seen the dragons himself. Harry wouldn't have let his worst enemy face those monsters unprepared--well, perhaps Malfoy or Snape...
"It's just...fair, isn't it?" he said to Cedric. "We all know now...we're on an even footing, aren't we?"
"He's from Durmstrang!" spat Ron. "He's competing against Harry! Against Hogwarts! You--you're--" Ron was obviously casting around for words strong enough to describe Hermione's crime, "fraternizing with the enemy, that's what you're doing!"
"But what's it matter if his mother was a giantess?" said Harry.
"Well...no one who knows him will care, 'cos they'll know he's not dangerous," said Ron slowly. "But...Harry, they're just vicious, giants. It's like Hagrid said, they're like trolls...they just like killing, everyone knows that."
"What did you bring her for?"
"Fleur didn't turn up, I couldn't leave her," Harry panted.
"Harry, you prat," said Ron, "you didn't take that song thing seriously, did you? Dumbledore wouldn't have let any of us drown!"
"The song said--"
"It was only to make sure you got back inside the time limit!" said Ron. "I hope you didn't waste time down there acting the hero!"
Harry felt both stupid and annoyed. It was all very well for Ron; he'd been asleep, he hadn't felt how eerie it was down in the lake, surrounded by spear-carrying merpeople who'd looked more than capable of murder.
Harry looked over at the fireplace too. Winky was sitting on the same stool as last time, but she had allowed herself to become so filthy that she was not immediately distinguishable from the smoke-blackened brick behind her. Her clothes were ragged and unwashed. She was clutching a bottle of butterbeer and swaying slightly on her stool, staring into the fire. As they watched her, she gave an enormous hiccup.
"Winky is getting through six bottles a day now," Dobby whispered to Harry.
"And I answer myself, perhaps they believed a still greater power could exist, one that could vanquish even Lord Voldemort...perhaps they now pay allegiance to another...perhaps that champion of commoners, of Mudbloods and Muggles, Albus Dumbledore?"
"For heaven's sake, Dumbledore--the boy was full of some crackpot story at the end of last year too--his tales are getting taller, and you're still swallowing them--the boy can talk to snakes, Dumbledore, and you think he's trustworthy?"
"You fool!" Professor McGonagall cried. "Cedric Diggory! Mr. Crouch! These deaths were not the random work of a lunatic!"
"The second step you must take--and at once," Dumbledore pressed on, "is to send envoys to the giants."
"Envoys to the giants?" Fudge shrieked, finding his tongue again. "What madness is this?"
"Extend the hand of friendship, now, before it is too late," said Dumbledore, "or Voldemort will persuade them, as he did before, that he alone among wizards will give them their rights and their freedom!"
"I say to you all, once again--in the light of Lord Voldemort's return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort's gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open."