Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Am Legend

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.


  1. I agree with you that Neville does not seem to be a “hero”. At least not in the sense that we normally think of like with Superman. Neville is a strong mentally and has good instincts. Like you said he is just trying to survive in a world where everything he has ever know was lost. To me the fact that he didn’t just give up after his drinking and depression shows he is not a quitter. However turning from drinking into someone who is trying to find and cure, a cure that could potentially save hundreds of thousands of human lives makes him a hero. I personally think that many people on this planet, if put into his situation, would quit and give up hope for mankind. I mean who would want to put in the time and effort it would take to learn enough about microbiology and virology to actually even begin to work to try and find a cure. Neville was strong brave and painfully devoted to a goal.

  2. I like that the novel shows us his weaknesses. I think it makes him easier to relate to, because it's not human to never have any weaknesses. It makes us care about him and what happens to him.

    For your question on why he keeps fighting, I think it goes to the racial undertones of the story. If you look at it as the vampires threatening to overtake, and the society he knows as just disappearing, he has to keep fighting. He has to continue to preserve his out society from the intruders. This can be seen by the way he tries to go about his life, from cooking a normal dinner that one might have today to listening to music to reading a book. He's doing everything in his power to retain something of his past life, something that is familiar and safe to him