I Am Legend has turned the idea behind vampires from a myth based on religion and superstitious fears into a post-apocalyptic scenario in which science holds the key to survival. In all my readings of vampire novels I never really stopped to consider why garlic, mirrors, crosses or stakes affected vampires, I just went with it. Now that I think about it from a scientific perspective I realize I’ve just been following along with the religious beliefs without questioning anything on a biological level.
The first thing I noticed about this novel was that it is incredibly different from the movie that I’ve seen. I would have to say that in the movie, the ‘vampires’ were more zombie-esque and they didn’t talk or torment Neville by hanging out around his house and calling out his name. This seems more fitting to the vampire stereotype, especially with all of the superstitions about keeping vampires away explained. Robert himself is an interesting character because he is struggling to survive through the attacks and the emotional turmoil and the fact that he may very well be the last human alive and to us it seems he has no reason to keep living. I don’t know if I’d have the strength to keep on going if everyone I knew in my lifetime had died, or in this case become infected and changed completely.
He doesn’t really seem like a ‘hero’ to me, but more of a typical human trying to survive. He is acting like most of us would if we encountered a similar situation. He’s brave and strong but not so much that he seems unrealistic. He has fears and doubts and plenty of moments of weakness. For example, the part when he was mourning over Kathy was a really human moment where he showed pain and loneliness.
“Robert Neville went back into the crypt, chest rising and falling with harsh movements. Then he closed his eyes and stood with his palms resting on the cover of the casket.
I’m here, he thought. I’m back. Remember me.
He threw out the flowers he’d brought the time before and cleared away the few leaves that had blown in because the door had opened.
Then he sat down beside the casket and rested his forehead against its cold metal side. Silence held him in its cold and gentle hands.
If I could die now, he thought; peacefully, gently, without a tremor or a crying out. If I could be with her. If I could believe I would be with her.” (p.37)
It made me wonder, what does he mean about believing he could be with her? Maybe he doesn’t believe in an afterlife, or that something entirely different happens after all of this infection spread.
To me, this scene represents his human weakness of sorrow and sense of loss, if you can consider it a weakness. Maybe this is his strength against the vampires, the reason he is able to live is because he retains those memories and that sense of his human self? Why does he keep fighting to live when all else is lost to him? It’s so interesting to follow his story.