How does one pick the pieces of a broken world? Even the opening line of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend perfectly sets the fictional reality of the lonely and desolate world in which Robert Neville finds himself. The worlds’ governments are no more. The human population is decimated. Even his family is gone. And yet, Neville wakes up every morning in attempt to make sense of his surroundings… to survive. But to survive what?
Typically, I find it difficult to read a book after watching the movie without visualizing the characters exactly how they are portrayed in the movies. For about the first ten pages or so of I Am Legend, I imagined Robert Neville, an athletic, 6’2″, African American male who moved to Bel-Air in a previous life, but that image quickly eroded. In fact, watching the movie spoils nothing in regards to the book. I would estimate that the two are about 90% unrelated.
But back to the question; to survive what? Well… he must survive them. He must become deaf to their calls from the street. He has to continually repair the suffered damages to home and garden. And he must be astutely aware of the time of day to return to his fortress.
Men are generally well prepared to handle the chaos of strenuous circumstances. There are plenty of biographies from the World Wars recounting men going through hellish environments to complete an assigned duty. Similarly, men have survived stranded islands, frozen peaks, and the infinite horizon of the ocean. The elements may be endured. Likewise, Neville intelligently and with strength adapts to survive. Neville has learned how to live with them, but the difficult position is living with himself. To survive what, we may ask? Neville must survive himself.
I Am Legend took me out of my comfort zone. I typically do not enjoy the horror-suspense genre. However, reading through Neville’s tragic survival had me hooked. Just like Neville, the reader adapts to ignore the attacks by night. But once that happens, we watch Neville try to make sense of life… Why he continues to fight… How to deal with the suffering of his losses… Where to go in his loneliness. This is the lasting affect of the book. We’re not all forced to face the hardships of nature (especially if that includes a widespread pandemic that mutates people into vampire-zombies), but we are all forced to learn how to live with ourselves.
As a teacher… and generally as a human, I deal with a broad spectrum of people, and though I do know not for sure, I feel that a number of people attempt to avoid the quiet. They would rather flood their lives with clutter and social media than deal with themselves… to let their thoughts wander. Unlike Neville, they have the luxury to be enveloped in a constant barrage of stimulation, distracting them from themselves. Upon such an observation, I sometimes think to myself, “maybe there are vampire-zombies out there after all.”
Pages: 317 FOA Pages: 31,674