I Am Legend


Richard Matheson

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I Am Legend: Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

It’s June 1978, and Neville is “out hunting for Cortman.” Hunting Cortman has become Neville’s hobby, one of the few things that brings him pleasure. Neville knows that Cortman knows that he’s trying to kill him; he imagines that Cortman savors “the chase.” It occurs to Neville that, if he were ever to kill Cortman, he wouldn’t know how to occupy his time anymore. Over the last two years, Neville has changed. He’s gained a lot of weight but he’s also built up some muscle. He has a long blonde beard, but his hair is thinning. His eyes shine bright blue.
Two years have passed since the events of the previous chapter, and Neville has entered into a new routine. Every day, he hunts for the sleeping body of Ben Cortman, his former friend. There’s a kind of “antagonistic cooperation” between Neville and Cortman. Pursuing Cortman gives Neville a sense of purpose in life; if he ever caught Cortman, he’d probably revert to drinking all day. (This is a common trope in science fiction and superhero stories, including some written by Matheson himself.)
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Related Quotes
One day, Neville strolls down the streets, searching for Cortman, when he sees a white shape in the distance—the shape of a woman’s body. As Neville approaches the woman, he sees that she’s tan and red-haired. Neville calls out to the woman, but she runs away from him. Neville runs after her, trying to convince her to stop. Eventually, Neville catches up with the woman, tackling her to the ground. She tries to push him away; confused, Neville cries out, “Why are you afraid?”, and “What’s your name?” Slowly, the woman stops struggling. She whispers that her name is Ruth.
Up until this point in the novel, Neville has seemed to be the only human being left on Earth. Now, it would seem, there’s another: Ruth. Ruth responds to Neville’s presence in the same way as the dog from Part Two: running away as fast as she can. And perhaps Ruth has good reason to run away from Neville: in the past three years, he’s evolved into a hardened killer, capable of ending hundreds of vampire lives every week.
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