I Am Legend

I Am Legend Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Late at night, Neville looks out of the peephole in his door and sees “them” coming. Then he sees “dark-suited men” attacking the vampires. They drive “razor-tipped pikes” into the 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 middle of the night. He hates the new society’s “methodical butchery”—he prefers his own method of killing vampires, silently and in the middle of the day.
Neville gets his first taste of the “new society” on the night after Ruth attacks him. Neville thinks that the vampires of the new society—those who use pills to control their disease—are overly cruel and bloodthirsty in the way that they kill the other vampires (those without control of their minds). But even if the new society vampires are brutal, they’re no less murderous than Neville himself.
Themes
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Related Quotes
Neville realizes that the new society is going to kill Ben Cortman, sooner or later—somehow, he doesn’t want Cortman to “perish like that.” Suddenly, he sees Cortman on the roof of the house across the street, and Neville realizes that Cortman has been hiding in the chimney all these years. The men in dark suits fire guns at Cortman, but Cortman continues to crawl across the roof. Neville finds himself weeping at the “ungainly form of his old friend.” The dark-suited men open machinegun fire on Cortman, ripping his head apart.
After years of trying to kill Ben Cortman, Neville is strangely sympathetic toward his old opponent. Although Neville wanted Cortman dead, the hunt for Cortman gave his life meaning and a sense of purpose; furthermore, to the extent that Neville wanted Cortman to die, he wanted Cortman to die in his sleep, not wide-awake, by machine gun. (Presumably, the strength of the machine guns’ bullets is great enough to rip through the vampires’ “body glue.”)
Themes
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Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Survival and Violence Theme Icon
It occurs to Neville that the dark-suited men are going to call for him to come outside and “surrender.” Neville realizes he has no choice but to come outside—he’s outmanned and outgunned. However, the dark-suited men never call out for him. Suddenly he realizes the truth: the men aren’t going to call him outside, they’re just going to kill him. The men shoot open the lock on the front door, and Neville runs away from the door. Neville crawls to his room and retrieves his pistol. As the men push their way into his house, he opens fire, and shoots one. Suddenly, a man hits Neville in the chest with a club. Neville falls to the floor and whispers, “Virge.” The dark-suited men drag Neville’s “lifeless body” out of the house, “into the world that was theirs and no longer his.”
Neville believes that the vampires of the new society are going to break into his home and murder him; thus, he tries to defend himself with his pistols, but to no avail—he’s badly outnumbered. The last sentence of this chapter is especially important: throughout the book, Neville has been trying to recreate the old, human world, killing vampires and trying to develop a cure for vampirism. But now, it’s become clear, the world of human beings is finished: it will be replaced with a new society, led by intelligent vampires.
Themes
Otherness Theme Icon
Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Survival and Violence Theme Icon