‘I Am Legend’ is a story of tenacity. It tells the tale of Robert Neville’s solitary lifestyle. He mourns the loss of his family, experiences the despair of being alone, carries out careful research on the cause and cure of vampirism, and fights off violent creatures that have become all too real. Exquisitely employing the use of allusions, metaphors, and irony, Matheson analyzes the nature of mankind. He categorically explores the consequences of loneliness on human psychology.
The world surrounding Robert is a perfect nightmare without ease. This may disturb a lot of readers. However, his life also has a positive side that shows how surprisingly strong humans can be in a bleak situation where all hope is lost.
‘I Am Legend‘ was incredibly influential in the years after it was published and spawned three film adaptations. The novel is responsible for creating the zombie subculture in film and literature.
Protagonist’s Daily Life and Crushing Despair
In ‘I Am Legend,‘ the fight for survival in a dangerous and uncertain world is told. The plot is simple as it tells its story from the perspective of a former plant worker, Robert Neville.
As the last man standing after a worldwide plague, he strives to survive. He is immune to the plague because he was bitten by a bat when he was abroad during a war. Robert speculates that he is infected by a mutated version of the vampiric bacteria from the bat. He spends his days traveling short distances from his home, killing vampires, hanging garlic, listening to Beethoven, and drinking. The female vampires outside his house attempt to seduce him into leaving the house and his infected friend, Ben Cortman, yell for him to come out.
Mixed up in Robert’s daily life are intense moments of despair and depression as he remembers his dead family and how happy he used to be. He thinks about his wife and young child, who he still deeply loves. He remembers the final moments they shared and the conversations they had. He remembers their death. When the despair builds up, he slips back into the routine again.
The Motivating Power of Hope
‘I Am Legend’ uncovers how motivating the feeling of hope can be. The belief that there may be survivors like him and his growing desire to discover the scientific rationale behind the vampires keeps Robert going. He also expects to discover a method to quickly and effectively kill the bacteria controlling the plague. His optimism jolts him from his period of depression and despair. Robert is not a scientist but studies the science behind the plague and its cause. He uncovers the reason for the spread, why vampires need human blood, and how they can animate a dead body.
Also, joy temporarily comes into Robert’s life in the form of a sick puppy he discovers on his front lawn. He spends weeks trying to get the dog comfortable in his presence. Meeting the dog slowly builds his belief that his days alone are finally over. Unfortunately, the dog dies from infection, throwing Robert again into a state of crazed grief.
Psychological Effect of Sexual Frustration
Although a short book, ‘I Am Legend’ delves deep into morality, mental health, science, coping mechanisms, and survival intuition. Another aspect the book addresses is sexual frustration. Robert is tormented by his need for sexual relations, which has been impossible since the plague wiped out the human population. When the female vampires taunt him by taking lewd positions while he watches them, he feels the pressure. During one of his low moments, Robert contemplates giving in to the temptation and finds himself removing the bars on his door, intent on going out to the vampires. When he starts his experiments on the cause and effect of the vampire plague, he notices that he experiments solely on women. He tries to convince himself that this has nothing to do with his sexual urges.
Violence Breeds Violence
In ‘I Am Legend,’ there are many instances of violence. Perhaps, the most important is the war between America and the unnamed superpower that ended in the two countries resorting to using nuclear weapons that led to the dust storms that spread the plague. The vampires’ ever-vigilant thirst for Robert’s blood shows another instance of violence. Throughout the book, Robert experiences several incidents of direct violence from the vampires. They throw stones at his house, assault him when he opens the door, and also attack him when he returns home late. They also destroy his washing machine and his generator. During the day, Robert spends time fixing the damage they made at night time.
Quickly, Robert learns to fight back. He kills them by driving stakes through their chests. He also uses them to test his hypotheses: he drags them into the sun to see its effects on them and injects them with his experimental potions. The vampires also attack themselves. Most mornings, Robert wakes up to find a dead vampire on his lawn. These victims are usually female. The dog that attacks him when he tries to get close and his initial treatment of Ruth also portray savagery. The book closes on a brutal note as the society of conscious vampires attack Cimarron street on the night of Robert’s capture. They massacre the dead vampires in front of Robert’s house, shoot up Ben Cortman, and eventually storm Robert’s home to capture him.
A Sad Conclusion
Thin in volume but strong on the engulfing feeling of dread, ‘I Am Legend’ ends on a sad note. When Ruth realizes Robert is not the monster others believe he is, she tries to save him by imploring him to hide before the conscious vampires arrive. He refuses, however, and dies by the poison Ruth graciously offers him.
What is the most prevalent message of ‘I Am Legend‘ novel?
The most prevalent message of ‘I Am Legend’ emphasizes the necessity of human emotions and relations with others. The reader is taken through the feelings of loneliness, sadness, hope, resignation, and anger of Robert Neville. In this novel, Richard Matheson reveals the importance of companionship.
Is ‘I Am Legend’ a good book to read?
Yes, it is. ‘I Am Legend,’ published in 1954, is one of the most prominent vampire novels of the 20th century. It is not very scary, nor does it possess mentally-threatening scenes, yet it often appears on the list of the best vampire novels.
How does the violent actions of the vampires influence Robert?
Aware that the vampires crave his blood and will kill him without a second thought, Robert learns to fight for his life. Although he initially struggles with sympathy, he quickly convinces himself that killing them was for his benefit. Asides from killing them, he tests his experiments on them.
How does Sexual unavailability affect Robert Neville?
To cope with the memories of his past and the present menaces of his life, Robert Neville deals with his problems through experiments and alcohol. He also suffers from sexual unavailability. This affects him so much he contemplates succumbing to his temptations and going out to the vampires who hunt him.
I Am Legend Review
Lasting Effect on Reader
I Am Legend Review
Robert Neville is the last man alive after a bacterial plague spread across the human population, killing millions and turning the rest of its victims into living vampires. The dead did not stay dead, however, but return to the living to haunt their living families and loved ones. After Robert’s family succumbs to the plague, he must struggle for the chance to survive, fighting off vampires and soul-crushing despair alike.
- This book greatly influenced the creation of the vampire/zombie genre.
- ‘I Am Legend’ draws you into itself and makes you feel Robert’s despair and loneliness.
- The book tells an innovative story from a fresh perspective.
- ‘I Am Legend’ struggles with prose.
- The book discusses the topic of suicide at length.
- Contains descriptions of nudity.
- contains several scenes of violence.