Winifred is complicit in and benefits from her brother’s abusive and power-hungry behavior. Her bond with Richard allows her to maintain a kind of power at a time when it was difficult for women to have independence. Instead of supporting fellow women, Winifred feeds off the opportunity to bully and control Iris. While Richard physically hurts Iris, Winifred uses more passive-aggressive methods of shaming and condescending. Winifred’s authority comes from her status as a beautiful and fashionable woman with a very high position in society. Readers do not know what has made Winifred the way she is, and this makes it hard to have sympathy for her. Other characters, including Iris, display flawed behavior but are also psychologically complex. Winifred has no known history or trauma nor any empathy for other women.
Winifred’s role in Laura’s abuse is shocking and abusive. It is strongly implied that Winifred knew that Richard had been sexually assaulting Laura and got her pregnant, but Winifred nonetheless helps him to institutionalize Laura in order to cover up his actions. After Iris leaves Richard, Winifred defends her brother and, for the rest of her life, sees Iris as the one who caused the tragedy in her family. Winifred has been so brainwashed into being loyal to a man that nothing Richard does can cause her to change her perspective. She only becomes more driven to punish Iris for standing up for herself. Because she is also a woman, Winifred knows the most effective way to hurt Iris. She destroys Iris’s relationships with Aimee and Sabrina. Although Richard does ultimately die an untimely death, Winifred lives a long life and dies with her reputation unscathed.