Up Late with I am Legend by Richard Matheson

This week’s post is brought to you from Isaac Pautz, a senior at State College Area High School in State College, PA.

The novel I am Legend written by Richard Matheson, is a story of isolation, depression, and despair. It is a novel that questions views of morality and what makes a life worth living for. The story takes places in a post apocalyptic world in which the main character Robert Neville, is one of the last survivors of a pandemic that has swept the world in ruin. The pandemic that affected almost all of the population converted those who were infected from human to creatures that closely resembled vampires. The book follows the story of Robert living as a lone survivor trying to survive the constant dangers of the vampires that remained around him. To deal with this, Robert works constantly between reinforcing his house for safety and trying to find ways to kill vampires more effectively or cure the disease altogether. However, in a lot of instances the vampires are not the biggest threat to Robert when compared to the isolation and depression he faces. Facing the loss of his daughter and wife to the disease and the constant loneliness he encounters, Robert desperately tries to live in a life without emotions of others. He copes at first by drinking alcohol and blasting music within his house when the vampires come to try to lure him out of his house at night. But later within the story this breaks him as he falls prey to the vampires voices and constantly searches out for companionship. The story goes on to express the way Robert lived his life alone and how he lived under the pressure of the vampires.

When reading this book, I appreciated it for its downcast tone which followed the character or Robert Neville. In most stories, there will be ups and downs within a character’s emotional level which express the progress they are achieving towards their end goal. In “I am Legend this however is not the case as the theme of the book is survival and how humans deal with depression. The book does a good job at matching the tone of hopelessness found within the main character. In a post apocalyptic wasteland where Robert was the only survivor, it would be hard to see Robert at any moment of the book feeling any really joy or progress being made instead of embracing the long and tedious journey of survival thrown out before him.

What also makes this book so interesting in my mind was its unconventional ending. Within the ending Robert Neville is captured by the vampires and taken to be executed because of the vampire murders he committed before in the story. When faced with execution, one vampire that had lived with Neville before he had been captured sympathizes with his situation and slips him a pill that will be able to kill him before the execution. After receiving this pill, Robert looks back on his life and now sees that to the vampires he must look like a monster, an unnatural superstition. So acknowledging this, he swallows the pill and claims that “[I am] a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever. I am legend.” (Matheson) This ending differs from so many other endings in conventional stories as is ends in a very depressing and hopeless tone. It also takes the goal of the main character, to eliminate all vampires and cure the humans of this disease, and questions the purpose of it. With a new race that inhabited the Earth, was his goal moral to kill them because they were not the normal definition of human to him and was all the actions taken place within the story a hopeless struggle that would have ultimately lead to death anyways?

Overall, the book was enjoyable to read because of its emotional complexity attributed to the main character, its unique exploration of isolation, and its unexpected, thought provoking ending.


Have a review you’d like to share? Send it to Kate at kap17@scasd.org

Up Late with I am Legend by Richard Matheson

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