Related: How did Snowe's agreement with Katniss not to lie to each other square with him lying about District 13?

In the linked question, I asked why President Snow lied to Katniss about the status of District 13 (at least in the movie version) in spite of their agreement not lie to each other.

The consensus there seems to be that President Snow is ruthless and sociopathic and would feel perfectly free to violate the disagreement if it was convenient to him. This brought up a related question, though (and there was some disagreement about this point): was Snow actually sadistic? Did he fundamentally enjoy hurting people (e.g. in the Hunger Games), or did he just hurt people when it was useful to him?

The mere existence of the Hunger Games (as well as his participation in them) seems to suggest that he was sadistic. At a minimum, it seems like a pretty sadistic way of killing people to say the least. With that said, in the movie at least Snow suggested that this was more useful than merely rounding kids up at random and killing them on the spot because it gave people just enough hope to make them easier to control. It also helped keep the Capital entertained. This raises the question: did he genuinely enjoy having the Hunger Games, or did he just do it because it was useful to him?

One significant piece of evidence was when Snow tells Katniss that the Rebels were behind the bombing that killed her sister. He told her that he obviously had no qualms about killing children, but that he had no reason to kill the capital children and he considered the bombing wasteful. The fact that he didn't do it because he considered it wasteful suggests that he wasn't sadistic, just a ruthless sociopath who had a utilitarian view of other people.

That being said, is there any evidence (either from the books or the movies) that Snow is actually sadistic (and not merely ruthless)?


2 Answers 2


President Snow is ruthlessly pragmatic.

As he said, he has no qualms about killing children, but only when it makes sense to do so and when it serves his political interests. The sadism comes from trying to make a spectacle of the killings and typically comes from the minds of the game masters, not specifically from Snow. These sadistic and ruthless killings are done purely for political purpose. Snow gains favor in entertaining those who support him, while at the same time maintaining an air of fear around those who might oppose him.


President Snow is a psychopath, possibly a sociopath. While he did do sadistic and violent things for political gain, he also did things for plain revenge and sadism, at least from the info provided from the books.

For example, even though President Snow was the president, and came from a wealthy family, he still sex trafficked former victors. It's not like he needed the money or respect, he just did it to exert his power over people. He did this with Finnick, tried to with Johanna, and probably many others.

He killed Johanna's family when she turned him down. While that may be so that she'd feel threatened, it's not like he needed Johanna to do anything for him, and did not even try to traffic her after. Same with Haymitch, when Snow killed his family because of how he won the games.

These actions weren't as much political as much as reactive. It's not like he was trying to send an intimidating message to the public, only a message to the specific people, as these were secrets. It was after the fact, and he did not use them or their fear for anything later. He caused complete devastation for revenge that wasn't even personal.

He unquestionably did these things to put people in their place. But only if these actions weren't from revenge and sadism, and had some unused intended purpose (like if he expected them to personally ever act out, which I find unlikely for Finnick and Jo), would they not be sociopathic qualities. However, Snow showed a clear lack of empathy, guilt, remorse, and manipulation. He even said he did everything for a reason. Only in the movies was he shown to have some emotion, for his grandkids. While he wasn't reckless, he was calculated and relentless, with superficial charm. Also, the whole drinking poison thing was pretty crazy.

Even if all of this was only for political gain, it just shows Snow was crazy ambitious and a psychopath, not a sociopath.

  • These are really good points - I never thought of it that way. Welcome to the site by the way, good to have you - I hope you stick around. Apr 12, 2020 at 1:46
  • You make a definite distinction between psychopathy and sociopathy, but there is no well agreed upon distinction between the two. (In the 2010-2017 Sherlock series, Holmes's retort of “I’m not a psychopath, Anderson, I’m a high-functioning sociopath; do your research” was not something a viewer should take particularly seriously.)
    – Jacob C.
    Apr 12, 2020 at 6:14

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