The setting of ‘I Am Legend’ is Cimarron Street in Los Angeles. The story begins after the outbreak of the vampiric virus that claims the lives of human beings and returns them to earth as vampires.
Throughout this short novel, there are diverse quotes worthy of note. These quotes engage with Richard Matheson’s themes like loneliness, science, and violence. They also convey the weight of Robert’s tragic experiences as he fights for survival in a world that changes and leaves him behind.
Horror, Terror, and Dread
He couldn’t even scream. He just stood rooted to the spot, staring dumbly at Virginia.
After Virginia, Robert’s wife dies, he decides he will not take her to the city’s fire pit to burn. He ties her up in a blanket and sneaks her into a lot, careful not to get caught. Two days later, he hears a knock on the door, and when he opens it, he discovers his wife has returned from the dead, thirsting for his blood. He is rooted to the spot in unimaginable fear and horror.
On those cloudy days, Robert Neville was never sure when sunset came, and sometimes they were in the streets before he could get back.
A few months after the vampiric plague wipes out the human population, Robert learns to survive the new world of vampires by being cautious. He never ventures outside his compound on cloudy days because he is yet to figure out how to track the exact time of day when the vampires emerge. He blames himself for this and sees it as a weakness.
A sound of terror stricken whining came from her. Her eyes moved wildly around the room, great white eyes with pupils like specks of soot.
Robert captures a female vampire to test their aversion to crosses. He ties her to a chair and waits till sunset for her to wake. She notices the cross hanging before her face and reacts with horror. As Robert tries to bring the cross closer to her face, her terror increases till she starts whining like a terrified dog. Robert is exasperated because he needs to understand why the vampire is terrified, but she cannot form intelligible words.
He smiled down at the dog, his throat moving. “You’ll be better soon,’ he whispered. “Real soon.”
One day, Robert wakes up from a drunken daze to find a dog rooting around his lawn. He is so shocked and chases after it. After a while, he sets food for it to gain its trust. Over the following days, he continues this practice. Finally, he captures the dog and takes it inside his house to treat its wounds. He believes his days of loneliness are over, and the dog would be a companion.
He didn’t know for how long they sat there holding each other close. He forgot everything, time and place; it was just two of them together, needing each other, survivors of a black terror embracing because they had found each other.
By the time Robert meets Ruth that fateful afternoon, he has given up on meeting another healthy human being. By thinking she was like him, an unchanged human, he begins to rebuild his hope that there may be a chance for humanity to survive after all.
Another thought: That man had been one of the true vampires; the living dead. Would sunlight have the same effect on those who were still alive? The first excitement he’d felt in months made him break into a run for the station wagon.
Here, Robert Neville discovers that the creatures die when exposed to sunlight. He blames himself for never guessing it, but the feeling of accusation is overshadowed by his first excitement since the plague began.
Loneliness, Despair, and Sadness
His fingers tightened slowly and his head sank forward on his chest. Virginia. Take me where you are.
After experiencing a bout of manic depression and lashing out at his wall, Robert knows he has to get out of Cimarron street, but he does not know where to go. He drives around at breakneck speed and ends up at the crypt containing Virginia’s body. He throws out the vampire hiding there, then breaks down in soul-crushing despair.
Sometimes he had indulged in daydreams about finding someone. More often, though, he had tried to adjust to what he sincerely believed was the inevitable—that he was actually the only one left in the world. At least in as much of the world as he could ever hope to know.
In this quote, Robert is wondering about finding another person like him who survived the vampire plague and is still alive. He, however, entertains the thought that he is the only living human on earth.
All right, there were a few possibilities for experiment now, but life was still a barren, cheerless trial. Despite everything he had or might have (except, of course, another human being), life gave no promise of improvement or even of change. The way things shaped up, he would live out his life with no more than he already had. And how many years was that? Thirty, maybe forty if he didn’t drink himself to death.
In this quote, Robert thinks about how his life has reached its nadir with no place to go. He wonders why he has never contemplated suicide even though his life holds no more promise of change or improvement.
He couldn’t stop laughing because it was more than laughter; it was release. Tears flooded down his cheeks. The glass in his hand shook so badly, the liquor spilled all over him and made him laugh harder. Then the glass fell thumping on the rug as his body jerked with spasms of uncontrollable amusement and the room was filled with his gasping, nerveshattered laughter. Later he cried.
Robert gets frustrated about Ben Cortman disproving the theory about vampires’ inability to cross running water. He also realizes that his undead friend reminds him of the comedian and actor Oliver Hardy. This drives him into a fit of manic laughter and uncontrollable amusement. Later he cries.
He felt himself trembling without control and he wanted to cry out loudly to stop the runaway horse of his brain.
In this quote, Robert feels himself breaking down after vampire-hunting theories he gathered from vampire lore begin to fall apart as he compares them with real vampires. In the end, he has to force himself to relax.
There were about seven vampires visible, six men and a woman. The men surrounded the seven, held their flailing arms, and drove razortipped pikes deep into their bodies. Blood spouted out on the dark pavement and the vampires perished one by one.
When the living vampires attack Cimarron street, Robert only watches through his peephole as they massacre the undead vampires in front of his home, including his friend Ben Cortman. He feels bad when he sees his undead friend die a second time.
Ten minutes later he threw her body out the front door and slammed it again in their faces. Then he stood there against the door breathing heavily. Faintly he heard through the soundproofing the sound of them fighting like jackals for the spoils.
Robert captures a female vampire with hopes of experimenting on her and proving some of his theories. While she is sensitive to the cross, she fails to react to anything else. Exasperated, Robert tries to grab her shoulders and shake her, but she bites him. He beats her and throws her outside, where she is devoured by her kind.
Science and Experiments
In a few minutes she stopped moving, stopped muttering, and her hands uncurled slowly like white blossoms on the cement. Robert Neville crouched down and felt for her heartbeat. There was none. Already her flesh was growing cold.
After Robert learns that sunlight destroys the vampires, he quickly searches for another comatose vampire to confirm his theory. When he finds a woman, he drags her through the stairs and into the sun.
Through experiments on the dead vampires he had discovered that the bacilli effected the creation of a powerful body glue that sealed bullet openings as soon as they were made.
When Ruth asks Robert questions about the things he discovered about vampires and why bullets don’t kill them, he lies that he does not know. However, the truth is revealed to the reader. Robert believes the bacteria attempts to protect its host body by producing a glue that rapidly seals its wounds.
He also learned to be systematic while experimenting with the mounts. He found that continually searching for things allowed that much more time for dust to accumulate on his slides.
This quote talks about the little discoveries made by Robert as he tries to learn how to properly use his new microscope and mount sample slides on it.
For seven months now he’d strung them together into aromatic necklaces and hung them outside his house without the remotest idea of why they chased the vampires away. It was time he learned why.
This quote talks about Robert’s attempts to discover if there is an active ingredient in onions, cloves, chives, and shallots, which can have the same repulsive effects on vampires as garlic does since they are closely related.
Why does Virginia return to Robert?
Dropping his daughter, Kathy, in the fire pit destabilizes Robert Neville so much that he decides not to burn his wife. When she dies, he sneakily buries her. Days later, however, she returns to his bewilderment. Somehow, her recollection of his house is still active, and she returns for his blood.
What quote proves the conscious vampires are as violent as the unconscious ones?
“There were about seven vampires visible, six men and a woman. The men surrounded the seven, held their flailing arms, and drove razor-tipped spikes deep into their bodies. Blood spouted out on the dark pavement and the vampires perished one by one.”
Is Robert Neville violent in ‘I Am Legend?’
Although human, Robert Neville is as violent as the vampires who are after his life. During the day, he goes hunting for his friend, Ben Cortman. He also kills unsuspecting vampires. He violently abducts female vampires for his experiments and one day beats a vampire when she does not comply with his demands.
What does Robert realize at the end of ‘I Am Legend?‘
In the letter Ruth leaves for Robert Neville, she tells him he is a threat because he has killed several conscious vampires, including her husband. While waiting for his execution, Robert is given poison pills by Ruth. Before he consumes them, he realizes he is a legend to the conscious vampires. He is anathema and black terror to be destroyed because he has caused havoc in their society.