I Am Legend


Richard Matheson

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I Am Legend: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

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 happened. It’s possible that Ruth is infected with the vampiris germ; however, Neville is willing to take the risk, since he hasn’t seen a human being in years. Neville still knows nothing about Ruth—he brought her back to his house, but she refused to speak to him, or to eat any food he gave her.
Because the chapter begins with Ruth asleep in Neville’s bed, Matheson immediately suggests a romantic connection between Neville and Ruth (although, apparently, they’ve barely interacted). Neville is so desperate for company that he’s willing to ignore the fact that Ruth could be infected with the vampire germ.
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Ruth emerges from the bedroom, and Neville begins to ask her some questions. Ruth explains that she lived with her husband in Inglewood until recently. Her husband died last week, and before that, her two children died. Ruth has spent the last week wandering through Los Angeles. Suddenly, Neville stands up and gets a handful of garlic from his cabinet, and Ruth becomes revolted by the smell. Neville realizes that Ruth has been infected with the vampiris germ. In the last two years, Neville has learned that garlic is an allergen for the vampires; injecting it into their veins does nothing, but exposing them to the odor creates nausea.
Ruth claims to be an ordinary human being, with a husband and children; however, her story seems a little implausible, especially since she’s allergic to garlic (as, indeed, all vampires are, Neville has learned).
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Ruth insists that she isn’t infected at all; rather, she just has a weak stomach. Unconvinced, Neville asks to take a sample of Ruth’s blood. Ruth cries out, “Leave me alone!” Neville offers Ruth whiskey in order to calm her down. Suddenly, he realizes that he doesn’t care whether Ruth is infected or not. He tells Ruth that he can’t let her go out to the vampires at night: “You don’t know what they’d do to you.”
Ruth’s explanation for being revolted by the smell of garlic isn’t particularly convincing. But Neville seems not to care: he’s so intent on spending time with another human being that he’s willing to overlook the strong possibility that this human being is infected with the vampire germ. As with the dog, Neville doesn’t let Ruth leave the house—supposedly for her own safety, but mostly because, after three years, he wants someone to talk to.
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