The Survivals in I am Legend
Survival of the fittest means that only the individual with the most suitable characteristics remains in the contest as the rest are wiped out. Robert Neville in ‘I’m Legend”, seems to be a good illustration of this assertion. Robert represents the remaining good breed of man and is under siege but he refuses to succumb to the wickedness of the bad breed and uses all the resources at his disposal to fight against the aliens. His environment has been invaded by human creatures whom after infection have become ruthless and are determined to completely eliminate him from the world. The story therefore articulates the life of Robert Neville in an environment that is full of vampires who were once a good breed of humans but have been infected with the vampire inducing agent. The vampires do not like Neville and they hunt him so as to kill him and convert him into one of their own. It is on the realization of such an ill motif that Neville puts in place all the mechanisms to prevent their mission from materializing. He therefore goes through a lot while trying to survive and maintain the good breed of humans. Neville in his encounters shows survival until when he faces his final death at the end of the story.
Being fit and well adapted to survive in adversity can be viewed as an understatement of Robert Neville’s character. This man in the book has gone through a lot for the sake of himself and others. Working to replace the damage that was created by others was part of his challenges. In the City of New York he seems to be an individual who is faced with a number of challenges. There are quite a number of ways through which Robert Neville survives in the city of New York. It is such survival strategies that have made him to become what he achieves towards the end of the book. Survival starts from where the man stays. This man stays in a single room in which there are a few items. The bed and the bureau had taken a portion of the space but through his ideas he had petitioned the room and had created space for a shop. The shop in this case is a survival tactic which is supposed to supplement the daily income of the man.
Robert has made a decision to deny himself the comfort of a spacious apartment and he has opted for a single room in which rest can be done while at the same time income generating activities be undertaken. Very few individuals can engage in the avidities done by Roberts and that is why when others are suffering, he is comfortable with his occupation. Each day he wakes up to perform domestic chores some of which are feminine. For instance the clearing the garbage in the sink washing utensils and dusting furniture all have to be performed. The accumulation of garbage for five days is an indicator that he does not like doing that job but he has to do it anyway. It seems that he has become adapted to living in such an environment. It is important that too much work in his daily activities do not permit him to check garbage on daily basis.
Moreman (2008), has described Neville as a lone survivor as depicted in the original premise of Richard Matheson. This single individual has been articulated as to have survived the virus that transformed the rest of humankind into vampires that are blood thirsty and are baying for the remaining human beings.
The life of Robert Neville is full of alcohol almost on a daily basis. In fact one can just conclude that alcohol is his best friend. It is a usual thing for people who are struggling with their lives to resort to alcohol so as to try and forget their predicaments. Robert is a good example of such a weak personality. However it is vital to underscore that his alcoholism can be attributed to the dead bodies and vampires in his environment who are after his life.In one of his alcoholic episodes, he wakes up in the morning with a very bad headache that has been brought about by the alcohol hangover. He tries to solve the problem with black coffee but the situation does not get better.
In times of danger, Neville is a character who never gives up and gives himself the necessary reassurance to go through. “He forced himself to be calm. He mustn’t go to pieces now; he had to keep himself in check. He’d get in. Don’t worry, you’ll get inside, he told himself.” (p 21). This is very important self talk phrases that he applies on himself to survive the danger that was in his way.
Other than the survival in his small house and place of work Neville has demonstrated his survival skills in a number of life threatening situations. He seems to be a very skillful driver based on the way he maneuvers with his station wagon during times of danger. The vampires are after him and he manages to escape there traps through the good use of his smart driving skills. Despite going through the trouble with his assailants he is determined to survive and preserve his life as he emphasizes in his words. He mentions that “this is fine, fine, commented his mind. You go to all that trouble to preserve your existence, and then one day you just don’t come back in time.”(Matheson 20). These phrases are a clear indicator that this man is indeed a survivor even in such worse circumstances.
In the garage incident he manages to escape the onslaught of the vampires even though they were determined to kill him. He never wanted to die with such a death. He managers to crash some of them using his car. This crash does not deter the remaining ones and they still pursue him. The vampire of Ben Cortman is still determined to bring him down when the station wagon stalled. He successfully manages to brush them off the vehicle and survives in the incidence. This particular incidence was survived because of his courage that made him not to panic and still start the engine and moved forward.
The bad breeds of humans have a particular recipe that can eliminate them so as to stop haunting Neville. To survive their wrath, Neville has to come up with a more effective solution that can deal with the plague. The garlic recipe is one important solution that is utilized by Neville so as to repel the infected humans. He survives in trying to find a solution through an experimental approach. He tries to investigate the effect of Allyl sulphide from onions on the bad breed of humans. Unfortunately the substance does not seem to have the anticipated effects on the vampires.
The killing and destruction of the infected survivors is a survival strategy that is adopted by Neville. He believed that by destroying the infected ones, there would be no source for more infections especially on him. He therefore sets out to destroy them with all the weapons available. In the course of fighting the aliens, Neville sustains wounds that later on heal.
It reaches a time when all other humans have been infected and he is the only surviving individual of the older generation. The fact that all other people were converted into the new breed leaving him behind means that he had survived their onslaught and was going to remain as the representative of the old generation.
Despite the physical destruction, there are also other strategies that are used by Neville to survive. Knowledge is one of these important survival strategies. It is clear from the story , it is clear that Neville is using knowledge to find solutions to his current problems.
“He put down the book. He’d been reading again about the lymphatic system. He vaguely remembered reading about it months before, during the time he now called his ‘frenzied period’. But what he’d read had made no impression on him then because he’d had nothing to apply it to.
There seemed to be something there now.’’ This paragraph illustrates how Neville was using knowledge as a tool to empower him and resist the alien forces. In this particular incidence he had read about the lymphatic system in books and he had discovered something of importance that could help him eliminate the new infected breed of humans. Neville also shows the use of scientific skills when he wants to test Ruth for the infection. Equipments such as microscopes have been well utilized by the scientist. Just like in the world today scientists are doing more reading and research so as to come up with more findings on how human beings can survive with infections that have no cure in the world today.
Being infected with the vampire factor is the worst thing that can happen to Neville. The mere worry that anytime the dead people can attack him makes Neville to be a man on the alert all the time. In this case, fear is the worst enemy that Neville has. It can be deduced that he fears death just like any other human. Living in fear and tackling his daily challenges is something that makes Neville a character with a very strong personality. This is evidenced in the way he confronts his enemies and destroys them or performs tests on them to ascertain their condition before trusting them. Fear alone should be able to take Neville down based on the nature of the problems he has to deal with in his environment. The dead bodies and the vampires are features that are supposed to instill fear in him. Fortunate enough, Neville is not that kind of person who easily succumbs to the forces of fear. He instead survives the fear and destroys a great number of infected human beings and remains the last man standing to represent the old generation.
Neville is also an individual who does not take things for granted in his fight for justice in his world. There is a lot of temptation that comes in his way. He has to survive the temptations of women who present the picture of innocence from outside when they are infected with the vampire factor. “ He stood over the bed, staring down at her. Ruth. There was so much about her he wanted to know. And yet he was almost afraid to find out. Because if she were like the others, there was only one course open. And it was better not to know anything about the people you killed.” (Matheson 69). Neville had a lot of suspicion on Ruth despite the fact that she was begging him and she looked innocent from the outside expressions.
Neville is a bachelor who manages to survive the invasion of the vampires alone. Mathias Clasen in his critique argues that Neville in this fiction appears to be immune to the vampire virus and opts to barricade himself in Los Angeles. It is this decision that makes him survive for some time before the vampires are killed by the men in black. He further indicates that as Neville continues killing the sleeping vampires and the infected humans, he really survives and struggles in loneliness and dejection. This is a form of survival characterized by hard work and little support from a relative or a loved one. The lack of a companion in this case can be viewed in terms of sexual frustration that the main character survives. His purpose in life is derived from his systematic investigation of the vampire virus until when he encounters Ruth.
From the initial chapters of the story at no time we are informed of his wife. This is another survival impression in the minds of the readers. Perhaps it would have been much easier for him to confront the problem of vampires with the help of the wife. The fact that he remained alone till when he encountered Ruth is an indication that he is a survivor and a representation of the old breed of men. It would not have been easy for the new generation to survive the invasion alone. In the beginning there is no assistance that comes from wife for instance in house chores like cooking and washing the dishes. This characteristic makes him to live a very awkward life amidst all the predicaments. It is in the later chapter that Neville confesses of ever having a wife who died and came back later for his blood. Fortunately he did not afford to fall in her trap. It would have been much easier for his wife to infect him. Lucky enough he manages to survive and maintains his state as a normal man. Would he have been a gullible man, he would have easily fell into the arms of his changed wife and he would have been converted into a vampire long time ago.
When he finally encounters Ruth he seems to be hesitant in letting her go. He simply does not want to be alone. “Suddenly he knew he didn’t want her to go to bed. He wanted her to stay with him. He didn’t know why, he just didn’t want to be alone.“I thought you were my wife,” he heard himself saying. “I woke up and I thought.” (Matheson 82). This atterances illustrate that Neville was at times desperate because of loneliness but despite such a feeling he still maintains his position and keeps the vampires away so as to remain the last man standing.
Unlike Neville, Ruth seems to be a representation of the new breed of humans who have adapted to the infection and are determined to create new order in the world. They have developed characteristics that make it difficult for Neville to determine whether they are vampires or they are normal human beings. Ruth claims that once the new breed of humans is fully grown they will take over the world and eliminates people like Neville who represent the old world. This new breed of people feel that the old breed is actually a threat to their existence and that is why they have to be dealt with ruthlessly. “What you don’t understand yet is that we’re going to stay alive. We’ve found a way to do that and we’re going to set up society again slowly but surely. We’re going to do away with all those wretched creatures whom death has cheated.”(Mathenon 86). These words are evidence that indeed the new breed consisting of people like Ruth are infected and have undergone adaptations that would make them suitable to exist. Their adaptations have made them more suitable but they are few.
From such a line of though, it can be pointed out that the new breed was after the life of Neville. The new breed of humans actually sent Ruth to eliminate people like Neville. However Neville survives the assassination in a very unique way. He ended up befriending Ruth and being more concerned about her state. It is from the hospitality of Neville that Ruth decides to think otherwise concerning her mission. She decides to spare Neville because she had began developing a strong relationship with him despite the fact that he is the one who was responsible for her husband’s death. Analysts have therefore argued that Neville escaped the elimination by Ruth simply because he fell in love with her not knowing that she had been infected. His desire to assist Ruth even with the infection must have struck her mind making her to change her mind and later own talk to her new breed to spare Neville. (Branston 2007)
As mentioned by Simmons, in the final struggle, Neville survives a brutal death when the seven men approach his house. He witnesses the brutal killings executed by the men who seemed to be forced into what they were doing. The men butchered vampires that were in the area and concluded their executions by brutally killing Cortman. This time he survives the brutal death by making a good decision not to fight the men in black. “But he wasn’t going to fight. He had worked out his decision very carefully. They were doing what they had to do, albeit with unnecessary violence and seeming relish. He had killed their people and they had to capture him and save themselves. He would not fight. He’d throw himself upon the justice of their new society. When they called to him he would go out and surrender, it was his decision.” (Matheson 90). Definitely he would have faced the same fate as the likes of Cortman but the author chose to use him to depict the survivals in the story.
Neville escapes the butchery by the men when he is pulled out of the house as he screams for mercy. The fact that he is arrested and given a chance to face the justice of the new world is an illustration of the fact that he is indeed a survivor of the old world.
In conclusion, it is important to reaffirm that in the story, Richard Neville is the single survivor of the vampire calamity. The vampires manifest themselves in different forms in the environment of Neville but fortunately he manages to uncover them and eliminates them. There are so many strategies that have been used by this character to show survival in the dangerous environments until at the time of his death.Various analysts have described the character to have been portrayed with a strong personality that has been utilized for surviving in an environment that is full of blood thirsty vampires that represent the changing world. In this fiction therefore the theme of survival has been well articulated by the author through the character of Neville.