I Am Legend

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I Am Legend Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Neville wakes up around ten o’clock the next morning, very hung-over. He walks outside and sees that the sky is grey and overcast, meaning that he’ll be unable to travel far from his home. He sits down on his couch, feeling miserable, and thinks, “the black bastards had beaten him.”
Neville begins to suffer from depression in this chapter. The monotony of his life is crushing; furthermore, there are many days when he’s unable to leave his house, leading him to feel claustrophobic and stir-crazy.
Themes
Otherness Theme Icon
Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Neville decides that he has to get out of his house, even if it’s dangerous to be outside on such a cloudy day. He drives his station wagon out onto the street and heads for the freeway. Neville drives out to a cemetery. There, he thinks about Virginia, buried in the cemetery. He wishes that he’d placed Kathy in the cemetery “with her mother” instead of burning the body, as officials had advised.
Here, we learn who Virginia and Kathy are: Virginia was Neville’s wife, and Kathy was his daughter (both are now dead). We also learn that the government advised that people burn their loved ones’ bodies, perhaps so that the vampire plague wouldn’t spread to other people.
Themes
Otherness Theme Icon
Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Survival and Violence Theme Icon
At the cemetery, Neville goes to Virginia’s crypt. Inside, he’s shocked to see a vampire (not Virginia) curled up, asleep. Furious, he drags the body out of the crypt and into the sun. To Neville’s amazement, the vampire rots instantly—in few seconds, he looks as if he’s been dead for days. Neville realizes the truth: the other way to kill vampires is to expose them to the sun. Somehow, he’s been living with vampires for five months and never realized that sunlight kills them. However, Neville realizes that this particular vampire is one of the “true vampires, the living dead”—in other words, a human being who died before the vampire plague and has now risen from its grave. Neville is unsure if sunlight can kill the vampires “who were still alive”—in other words, the human beings who haven’t actually died yet, but who suffer from the vampire plague.
Here Neville discovers that sunlight kills vampires—a rather obvious piece of information, one might think (especially since Neville has already figured out that vampires don’t like mirrors or crosses). Neville also draws an important distinction between “living” vampires and “dead” vampires. The gist of this distinction is that the vampire plague can infect either living people or already-dead corpses. In the former cases, the resulting vampires are “living”; in the latter case, they’re “dead.” While this distinction may seem trivial for most of the book, it becomes a major plot point in the final few chapters.
Themes
Otherness Theme Icon
Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Survival and Violence Theme Icon
Science Theme Icon
Neville drives away from the cemetery, still excited with his discovery that sunlight kills the vampires, or at least some vampires. He stops by a house, carrying his wooden stake and mallet, and finds a woman who’s asleep in her bedroom—he deduces that this woman is a “living vampire”—a human being who’s suffering from the vampire plague, but who hasn’t actually died and been buried in the ground. Instead of killing the woman with his usual stake, Neville drags the woman outside into the sunlight, and notices that the woman’s flesh grows cold, and her heartbeat stops. To test whether sunlight has really killed the woman, Neville decides to take the woman’s body home in his car. He checks his watch—it’s three o’clock. Suddenly, he realizes that the watch is broken.
Neville is becoming more scientific in his approach to studying vampires. In a previous chapter, he told himself that his priority was killing vampires—he’d learn the details later. Now, Neville seems highly curious about those details, and he’s conducting “experiments” to test the differences between dead and living vampires. The chapter ends suspensefully—will Neville be able to make it back to his house before the sun goes down?
Themes
Otherness Theme Icon
Survival and Violence Theme Icon
Science Theme Icon
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