Richard Matheson's I Am Legend

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Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend centers around the character of Robert Neville, who lost everything as a result of a plague that turned all around him, including his wife, into vampires. The real source of the disease is thought to be bacteria, bacillus, which has gradually grown to become a threat to mankind. Neville is subjected to constant torment as he fights vampires on a regular basis to stay alive. In essence, it is a science that brought all the problems that were facing the protagonist in the tale and upon reading about the life of Robert Neville, there is a general feeling that the author Richard Matheson is subtly condemning science (Gardner 21). From an analytical perspective, the romantic impetus of the story is helped by the author’s condemnation of science.

People are attracted to stories that evoke feeling and a lot of emotion. The fact that Robert Neville lost his family and is now living alone begs a lot of questions as to how he has made it thus far all by himself. The author of the story twists the plot by making it clear to readers that science is to blame for the loss of Robert Neville’s first wife; the plague that turned people to vampires (courtesy of scientific mutation of genes) hindered the romance between the protagonist and his beloved wife (Matheson, 23).

The author’s condemnation of science builds the plot of the story. Were it not for the loss of his wife to the plague, Robert would not have been missing his past Romance and would probably not be alone to fight his battles. In addition to that, all the audiences to the story that read about his misery would not have bonded with him and developed a character attachment with him and bonded with him. Robert Neville had to do everything to survive and not get infected with the plaque that affected the whole of humanity. The vampires wanted to infect him or kill him; in fact, if given the chance they would do both to him. To survive he had to live by the principle “kill or be killed”; with such a disposition he had to kill a lot of vampires; these were wives and husbands to people (Matheson 82). Looking at the bigger picture, Robert was a romance killer not because he got a thrill from killing people but because he had to do it to survive.

At some point in the story we get to learn that Robert was bitten by a bat; the bite made him very sick but he did not die. This whole experience made Robert immune to the virus that had hit the whole of humanity. Besides, Robert Neville was immune to bites from vampires. In as much as he was very sure that no bite from a vampire would harm him, Robert did not want the vampires to get too close to him as this would jeopardize his life (Matheson, 83).

A lot of townspeople hated and feared Robert Neville; hated him because they were afraid that he would kill them and that he was stronger than them. They feared him because he had sent many a man to the afterlife; the bitterness that people had towards him was because of the many romances he had ended. The romance that materialized between Ruth and Robert is a surefire way of telling that sciences helped built a storyline of love. First of all Robert Neville killed Ruth’s husband and here we see an instance of science being blamed justly; come to think of it if Robert was not being pursued by vampires created by scientifically caused mutations, he would not have killed anyone. The whole drama brought about by science, mutations, and the plaque is what made Robert Neville and Ruth get to meet. Ruth was sent by other vampire mutants who sought to kill Robert Neville; she was to use her charm as a woman and spy on him (Matheson 95).

It is surprising that the plot of the story takes an interesting twist when Ruth who was supposed to hate Robert for killing his husband later finds herself in love with him. With such a twist to the plot it is quite evident that science was a great contributor to the romantic impetus of the story (Gardner 45). Science also takes a toll, both in the life of Robert and his new found love Ruth. This is because the vampires have mutated and have been causing a lot of problems at night; taunting him and baying for his blood (Gardner 45).

The reason why the vampires got together and developed an ideology of killing their enemy, Robert Neville, is because science made them mutate and realize more mental capacity. Were it not for the new capability that the vampires developed due to science, they would not have been the reason why Ruth and Robert fell in love. In a nutshell, the tale I am legend can be regarded as a sci-fi story that is interwoven with a plot of steamy romance.

Works Cited

Gardner, Janet E. A Portable Anthology. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Matheson, Richard. I am Legend. New York: Macmillan, 2007.

January 25, 2023



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