“I Am Legend” (Ch. 12 – 16)

David | Jul 9, 2009

Here we find Neville hitting another brick wall. He thinks he’s figured out what’s causing the vampires - a Bacilli (germ) - but he can’t attribute all the vampire behaviors to it. So, what does he do? Well, by this point we know Neville pretty well - a man who, although he’s survived some pretty extreme circumstances, falls back to the drink when things get too challenging.

Man, it’s time this guy get a new tune.

Matheson must have felt so, too. Because in the next few chapters, he introduces two significant new elements that further serve to change Neville.

The first of these is a dog. Just a dog. But this guy’s been on his own so long, that the dog is a huge impact:

He stayed drunk for two days and planned on staying drunk till the end of time or the world’s whiskey supply, whichever came first.

And he might have done it, too, if it hadn’t been for a miracle.

It happened on the third morning, when he stumbled out onto the porch to see if the world was still there.

There was a dog roving about on the lawn.

This dog is renewed hope for Neville. It gives him something aside from himself to care for, to look after, to give purpose to what has become a repeatitive and almost meaningless existence. So the next few chapters are about Neville winning the dog’s trust, him realizing the dog is infected, and trying to cure it. Chapter 14 ends with the dog dying.

So, I expected Neville to fall back to his old routine - get drunk, feel sorry for himself, beat stuff up, kill some vampires. But, Matheson makes the change in him permenant. Chapter 14 actually begins by saying as much:

There was no debauch of drinking. Far from it. He found that he actually drank less. Something had changed.

So now we have a new, improved Neville, one who attackes the problem of the Vampire Bacilli with a fresh perspective. His initial attempt at the solution relied solely on him learning biology. Matheson has an extremely creative solution here - he now has Neville teach himself psychology, and Neville is able to provide rational explanations for ALL the vampire symptoms by being either the Bacilli, or the result of hysteria. And this resolution brings closure for Neville, sealing the change in personality to that of a strong hermit.

Chapters 15 & 16 deal with Neville’s next encounter with another living being. A woman - Ruth. I don’t have much to comment on here yet, other than - either I’m an idiot or Neville is. She’s pregnant. I guess I’ll find out soon. The distrust that plays out from Neville is interesting, and I’m curious to see where this all leads.

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