I Am Legend

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A ranking officer in the “new society” of living vampires (i.e., vampires who retain their intelligence and memory, and who live at peace with their vampire bacteria by taking special pills). Toward the end of the novel, Ruth shows up near Robert Neville’s house, pretending to be a normal human being. The two share a romantic connection, and though she’s seemingly been sent to kill Neville, she only knocks him out, and then leaves him a letter telling him to leave Los Angeles immediately. In the end, Neville is captured, and Ruth mercifully offers him poison capsules so that he won’t have to suffer an execution at the hands of the vengeful new society.

Ruth Quotes in I Am Legend

The I Am Legend quotes below are all either spoken by Ruth or refer to Ruth. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Tor Books edition of I Am Legend published in 2007.
Chapter 16 Quotes

All these years, he thought, dreaming about a companion. Now I meet one and the first thing I do is distrust her, treat her crudely and impatiently.
And yet there was really nothing else he could do. He had accepted too long the proposition that he was the only normal person left. It didn't matter that she looked normal. He'd seen too many of them lying in their coma that looked as healthy as she. They weren't, though, and he knew it. The simple fact that she had been walking in the sunlight wasn't enough to tip the scales on the side of trusting acceptance. He had doubted too long. His concept of the society had become ironbound. It was almost impossible for him to believe that there were others like him. And, after the first shock had diminished, all the dogma of his long years alone had asserted itself.

Related Characters: Robert Neville, Ruth
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Neville has crossed paths with a mysterious woman named Ruth (who later turns out to be a vampire). Neville is unsure what to think about Ruth; his first instinct is to distrust her. However, he’s also sympathetic to Ruth, and wonders if he isn’t predisposed to distrust other people, simply because it’s been so long since he’s had human contact. As he notes here, he’s spent years thinking about human contact—and now that he’s found some, he’s frightened of it.

The passage shows how greatly Neville’s years of loneliness have changed him. In order to survive, Neville has forced himself to focus on the present, rather than dwelling on the past (in particular, his memories of his dead wife, Virginia). In a way, he’s built a one-man “society” for himself, founded on discipline, efficiency, and murder—and now, the idea of adding another person to that society is almost intolerable to him. Nevertheless, Neville eventually decides to let Ruth stay in his home—his suspicions aren’t enough to outweigh his persisting need for companionship.

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Chapter 17 Quotes

They were silent then and the only sound in the room was the rasping of the needle on the inner grooves of the record. She wouldn't look at him, but kept staring at the floor with bleak eyes. It was strange, he thought, to find himself vaguely on the defensive for what yesterday was accepted necessity. In the years that had passed he had never once considered the possibility that he was wrong. It took her presence to bring about such thoughts. And they were strange, alien thoughts.
"Do you actually think I'm wrong?" he asked in an incredulous voice.

Related Characters: Robert Neville (speaker), Ruth
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

In Chapter 17, Neville tells Ruth about his one-man society: he explains that he spends his days traveling around the city, searching for Ben Cortman and other vampires to kill. To his surprise, Ruth is revolted by Neville’s descriptions of killing. She suggests that Neville is killing innocent people: some of his victims, after all, are “living vampires”—human beings who have contracted the vampire plague.

Neville is genuinely surprised by Ruth’s suggestion: he’s been killing vampires for so long that the act of killing has become an utterly uncontroversial part of his existence. Though we don’t realize it at the time, Ruth is actually a vampire—a member of the “new society” of the undead. Ironically, Ruth the vampire comes across as much more emotional, sympathetic, and “human” than Neville. Years of killing have hardened Neville, stripping him of compassion. The passage paves the way for Neville’s epiphany in the final chapter, when he realizes that, from the vampire’s perspective, he’s a heartless monster.

Chapter 18 Quotes

He didn't know how long it was they sat there holding each other close. He forgot everything, time and place; it was just the two of them together, needing each other, survivors of a black terror embracing because they had found each other.

Related Characters: Robert Neville, Ruth
Page Number: 140
Explanation and Analysis:

After knowing each other for less than a day, Ruth and Neville become romantically involved. The scene is staged somewhat awkwardly, partly because 1950s publishing norms probably prevented Matheson from writing an explicit, full-scale love scene. As a result, it’s unclear what, exactly, Ruth and Neville do while “holding each other close.” (The passage is another good example of how Matheson leaves the most emotionally intense moments in I Am Legend up to his readers’ imaginations.)

On a thematic level, the passage is important because it shows Neville finding the companionship he’s craved for all these years. When Neville found Ruth in the streets, he immediately distrusted her; however, in the end, his need for a friend outweighs his distrust, and they end up loving each other. (The fact that Ruth and Neville’s love scene has been censored helps Matheson avoid an awkward plot-hole: if Ruth the vampire has disguised herself as a human being by wearing heavy makeup, wouldn’t Neville notice when he holds her close?)

Chapter 19 Quotes

When I was first given the job of spying on you, I had no feelings about your life. Because I did have a husband, Robert. You killed him.
But now it's different. I know now that you were just as much forced into your situation as we were forced into ours.

Related Characters: Ruth (speaker), Robert Neville
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

After their romantic encounter, Ruth has attacked Neville and abruptly abandoned him. She leaves a letter for Neville, in which she explains that she’s really a vampire from an intelligent, civilized society. She was sent to spy on Neville, the last remaining human being and her husband’s killer, but she decided to forgive him when she realized that Neville is just as frightened of vampires as the vampires are frightened of Neville.

The passage is important because it introduces the theme of moral relativism: although Neville has spent most of the novel thinking that he’s justified in killing vampires in their sleep, he’s inadvertently murdered Ruth’s husband (and, presumably, hundreds of other civilized vampires). But surprisingly, Ruth is willing to overlook Neville’s murders—she understands that he was just trying to survive, just as Ruth and her fellow vampires are now trying to survive. (To some, it might seem implausible that Ruth would forgive Neville for murdering her husband, and fall in love with him, after knowing him for less than a day.)

Chapter 21 Quotes

"New societies are always primitive," she answered. "You should know that. In a way we're like a revolutionary group—repossessing society by violence. It's inevitable. Violence is no stranger to you. You've killed. Many times."
"Only to ... to survive."
"That's exactly why we're killing," she said calmly.

Related Characters: Ruth (speaker), Robert Neville
Related Symbols: Vampires
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final chapter of the novel, Neville finds himself in a prison cell, next to Ruth—who, he now knows, is a member of the new vampire society. Neville accuses Ruth and her fellow vampires of being needlessly cruel and violent, but Ruth responds that all new societies are—but she implies that one day, the society of vampires may become more peaceful. Ruth also draws a comparison between Neville and the vampires. Echoing the themes of the previous chapter, Ruth points out that Neville, no less than the vampires, is a systematic, emotionless killer—he’s spent years of his life killing vampires in their sleep, and thinks of killing as an uncontroversial part of his life.

Ruth hits home her point by stressing that the new vampires kill to survive—in other words, killing is a duty, not a pleasure for them. Neville has seen first-hand that Ruth is wrong: some of the vampires do seem to enjoy killing for the sake of killing. However, over the years, Neville has also shown signs of enjoying killing vampires. Neville tries to tell himself that he’s the “good guy”—the civilized human being who kills only to survive—but he’s finding it increasingly hard to believe this.

"I'm a ranking officer in the new society," she said. His hand stirred under hers.
"Don't ... let it get . .." He coughed up blood. "Don't let it get . . . too brutal. Too heartless."
"What can I—" she started, then stopped. She smiled at him. "I'll try," she said.

Related Characters: Robert Neville (speaker), Ruth (speaker)
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

In this ambiguous passage, Ruth has just informed Neville that her fellow vampires are going to execute him. Neville has spent years killing the vampires’ families and loved ones, including Ruth’s husband. Now, it’s time for Neville to pay the price for his murders.

Strangely, Neville seems calm as Ruth tells him that his life is about to end. Instead of begging for his life, he asks Ruth—who, it’s revealed, is a powerful figure in the new society of vampires—not to let “it” get too brutal.

On the most obvious level, “it” refers to Neville’s execution. However, there’s a second, more interesting interpretation of “it.” Perhaps Robert intends for “it” to refer to the “new society” that Ruth has just mentioned. After three years, during which he’s built a one-man society founded in the heartless murder of vampires, Neville encourages the vampires not to make the same mistake he (and other humans, who destroyed themselves through war) made—in other words, to be civilized and peaceful, not “heartless.”

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Ruth Character Timeline in I Am Legend

The timeline below shows where the character Ruth appears in I Am Legend. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 15
Otherness Theme Icon
Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
...and “What’s your name?” Slowly, the woman stops struggling. She whispers that her name is Ruth. (full context)
Chapter 16
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Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Survival and Violence Theme Icon
It’s four in the afternoon, and Ruth lies asleep in Neville’s bed. Neville sits in his living room, trying to understand what’s... (full context)
Otherness Theme Icon
Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
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Ruth emerges from the bedroom, and Neville begins to ask her some questions. Ruth explains that... (full context)
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Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Ruth insists that she isn’t infected at all; rather, she just has a weak stomach. Unconvinced,... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Survival and Violence Theme Icon
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Neville and Ruth eat supper together. Neville explains to Ruth that he doesn’t understand how the vampires are... (full context)
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Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
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Neville explains to Ruth that crosses are sometimes an effective deterrent to the vampires, but not always. Vampires who... (full context)
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Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Survival and Violence Theme Icon
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Ruth looks at Neville carefully, and says, “You don’t believe a word I’ve said, do you?”... (full context)
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Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Survival and Violence Theme Icon
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Neville tells Ruth about something else he’s discovered: he can make Cortman panic by waving a copy of... (full context)
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Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
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Ruth asks Neville, “Tell me about yourself,” and Neville isn’t sure how to reply. Neville realizes... (full context)
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Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
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Ruth then asks Neville a question: if, as he says, some of the vampires are still... (full context)
Chapter 18
Otherness Theme Icon
Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Survival and Violence Theme Icon
...the couch, where he’s been sleeping. Neville cries out, “Virge!” only to realize that it’s Ruth, walking down the hall. Neville gets out of bed, dresses, and accuses Ruth of trying... (full context)
Otherness Theme Icon
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Ruth asks Neville, “Why were we punished like this?” Neville says he doesn’t know, and apologizes... (full context)
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Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
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...a long time, Neville stands up, gets his syringe and proceeds to draw blood from Ruth. He bends over a microscope, assuring Ruth that, if she is infected, he’ll find a... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Survival and Violence Theme Icon
Neville wakes up in his house. He sees that the front door is wide open: Ruth is gone. He finds a note from Ruth, explaining, “I want to save you if... (full context)
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Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
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Ruth’s note goes on to explain that she and her friends are infected with the germ,... (full context)
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Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
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...to the note. He feels confused about what’s just happened: he remembers that he and Ruth “had embraced, they had …” In the midst of his confusion, however, Neville remembers a... (full context)
Chapter 20
Otherness Theme Icon
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...vampires’ bodies, and blood spurts everywhere. Neville realizes that he’s looking at the “new society” Ruth described in her letter. The people of the new society attack dead vampires in the... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
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...gives him some water, then wipes his perspiring forehead. Neville sees that the woman is Ruth. Ruth asks, “Why did you fight them? They had orders to bring you in unharmed.”... (full context)
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Ruth whispers that she’s a ranking officer in the new society. Outside, the people of the... (full context)