There’s something so compelling about reading about or watching a well drawn fictional sociopath from the safety of your own home. I love the chilling darkness that oozes from the pages or the screen, yet its that distance that allows many of us the chance to explore what makes a sociopath. To see how they operate, how emotionless and manipulative they can be. So here are five of my favourite ones.
Sociopath Number 1
Rhoda Penmark, created by William March in The Bad Seed is delightfully sociopathic, not only because she is so young but because the novel was first written in the 1950’s when the commonly held belief by psychologists was that the ‘sociopath’ gene was carried through the mother’s line. This novel raises all sorts of questions regarding sociopathy and was one of my early memories of reading a serial killer novel. Rhoda, the child in question is amoral, selfish and manipulative. The Bad Seed is a wonderful introduction to the child sociopath and definitely piqued my interest in the psyche of the serial killer and how they exist within a family. Rhoda is particularly interesting because she is a well loved child from a stable home.
Sociopath Number 2
Cara Lindstrom in Alexandra Sokoloff’s Huntress novels is a fascinating socipath. Throughout the series her character is developed and we find out more and more about what drives this young woman to the extreme acts she commits. Lindstrom is one of those characters with whom it is difficult not tosympathise. Unlike Rhoda Penmark, Cara follows a very strict moral compass based on her experiences. As a character she is fearless, strong and very, very damaged … but that is why she fascinates me so much. I will her to have happiness. I cry at her story and I rant against those that have made Cara into what she is. This series is one not to be missed.
Sociopath Number 3
Gretchen Lowell was created by author Chelsea Cain. Unlike Rhoda or Cara, Gretchen is neither a child, nor a (as far as we know) product of her environment. Unlike Cara, she has no need to operate under the radar, but like cara she develops a strange affinity with the man who is hunting her. Gretchen Lowell, is a serial killer, not out of necessity like Cara, but out of choice. She is clever, accomplished and enjoys the torture and hunting as much as the killing. She has no morals and knows she has no morals. A deliciously evil character that capitalises on the relationship she has manufactured by her hunter, Archie Sheridan. Gretchen’s coldness fascinates me in much the same way as her vicitims’ reactions fascinate her – she is a study in sociopathy- scary but addictive as you want to understand more and more about her character.
Sociopath Number 4
Well, no fictional sociopath list could be complete without Hannibal Lecter. Whether you’ve read the books or are addicted to the films (or the series) as a character Hannibal is moreish. His intelligence, his ability to kep under the radar for so long, his relationship with Clarice … all of these things make him truly fascinating. His mental abilities are beyond most peoples understanding and, it is his mental strength as much as his physical, that makes him one of the most popular serial killers of all time. It also makes him one of the creepiest, most devious, thrilling characters you’re likely to read about.
Sociopath Number 5
Last, but most definitely not least is The Joker. One of the most delightfully amoral serial killers I’ve ever seen. His one liners are perfectly chillingly memorable and as a character his flamboyance is fascinating. Whether you prefer the traditional old films or the cartoons or whether you prefer the newer representations of The Joker, I think we can all agree that he is an enduring and well loved character. I’m not quite sure which of the modern Jokers I’m most drawn to, but I wouldn’t want to ‘dance with the devil in the pale moonlight.’