I Am Legend

Robert Neville Character Analysis

The main character of I Am Legend, Robert Neville is the last human being to survive after a vampire plague hits Los Angeles in the year 1975. While his friends and family become vampires, Neville converts his house into a fortress, and spends his days traveling around the city, killing any sleeping vampires he can find. Over the course of the book, Neville tries to understand the causes of the vampire plague. He also battles depression and alcoholism—without anyone left to talk to, whiskey is one of the few pleasures left to him. Throughout the book, Neville expresses his fear and hatred for the vampires, and it’s his goal to rid the city of vampires altogether. However, after he meets Ruth, a “living vampire,” Neville begins to see the truth: from the perspective of the vampires, Neville is a hideous monster, who spends his waking life killing vampires in their sleep (just as vampires are said to spend their waking lives killing slumbering humans). Thus, as the novel comes to a close, Neville seems to see the world through the eyes of a vampire: he is the monster, the antagonist, and the “legend.”

Robert Neville Quotes in I Am Legend

The I Am Legend quotes below are all either spoken by Robert Neville or refer to Robert Neville. 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:
Otherness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Tor Books edition of I Am Legend published in 2007.
Chapter 1 Quotes

With a stiffening of rage, he wrenched up the record and snapped it over his right knee. He'd meant to break it long ago. He walked on rigid legs to the kitchen and flung the pieces into the trash box. Then he stood in the dark kitchen, eyes tightly shut, teeth clenched, hands clamped over his ears. Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone!

Related Characters: Robert Neville
Related Symbols: Music
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

He checked the oil, water, battery water, and tires. Everything was in good condition. It usually was, because he took special care of the car. If it ever broke down so that he couldn't get back to the house by sunset ...
Well, there was no point in even worrying about that. If it ever happened, that was the end.

Related Characters: Robert Neville
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

He thought of the eleven—no, the twelve children that afternoon, and he finished his drink in two swallows.

Related Characters: Robert Neville
Related Symbols: Vampires, Alcohol
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

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At one time, the Dark and Middle Ages, to be succinct, the vampire's power was great, the fear of him tremendous. He was anathema and still remains anathema. Society hates him without ration.
But are his needs any more shocking than the needs of other animals and men? Are his deeds more outrageous than the deeds of the parent who drained the spirit from his child? The vampire may foster quickened heartbeats and levitated hair. But is he worse than the parent who gave to society a neurotic child who became a politician?

Related Characters: Robert Neville (speaker)
Related Symbols: Vampires
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

Another thought: That man had been one of the true vampires; the living dead. Would sunlight have the same effect on those who were still alive?
The first excitement he'd felt in months made him break into a run for the station wagon.

Related Characters: Robert Neville
Related Symbols: Vampires
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

Fury exploded in him. Enough!
His rage-palsied hands ripped out the clothes from the bureau drawer until they closed on the loaded pistols.
Racing through the dark living room, he knocked up the bar across the door and sent it clattering to the floor. Outside, they howled as they heard him opening the door. I'm coming out, you bastards! his mind screamed out.

Related Characters: Robert Neville
Related Symbols: Vampires
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

"Maybe the insects are . . . What's the word? Mutating." "What's that?"
"Oh, it means they're ... changing. Suddenly. Jumping over dozens of small evolutionary steps, maybe developing along lines they might not have followed at all if it weren't for..."
Silence.
"The bombings?" she said.
"Maybe," he said.
"Well, they're causing the dust storms. They're probably causing a lot of things."
She sighed wearily and shook her head. "And they say we won the war," she said. "Nobody won it."

Related Characters: Robert Neville (speaker), Virginia Neville (speaker)
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

Ten minutes later he threw her body out the front door and slammed it again in their faces. Then he stood there against the door breathing heavily. Faintly he heard through the soundproofing the sound of them fighting like jackals for the spoils.
Later he went to the bathroom and poured alcohol into the teeth gouges, enjoying fiercely the burning pain in his flesh.

Related Characters: Robert Neville
Related Symbols: Vampires
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes

Oliver Hardy always coming back for more, no matter what happened. Ripped by bullets, punctured by knives, flattened by cars, smashed under collapsing chimneys and boats, submerged in water, flung through pipes. And always returning, patient and bruised. That was who Ben Cortman was—a hideously malignant Oliver Hardy buffeted and long-suffering.
My God, it was hilarious!
He couldn't stop laughing because it was more than laughter; it was release.

Related Characters: Robert Neville, Ben Cortman
Related Symbols: Vampires
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9 Quotes

He couldn't even scream. He just stood rooted to the spot, staring dumbly at Virginia.
"Rob...ert," she said.

Related Characters: Virginia Neville (speaker), Robert Neville
Related Symbols: Vampires
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 10 Quotes

He thought about that visionary lady. To die, he thought, never knowing the fierce joy and attendant comfort of a loved one's embrace. To sink into that hideous coma, to sink then into death and, perhaps, return to sterile, awful wanderings. All without knowing what it was to love and be loved.
That was a tragedy more terrible than becoming a vampire.

Related Characters: Robert Neville
Related Symbols: Vampires
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 11 Quotes

No, not the vampire. For now, it appeared, that prowling, vulpine ghost was as much a tool of the germ as the living innocents who were originally afflicted. It was the germ that was the villain.

Related Characters: Robert Neville
Related Symbols: Vampires
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 12 Quotes

The thought of forty more years of living as he was made him shudder.
And yet he hadn't killed himself. True, he hardly treated his body welfare with reverence. He didn't eat properly, drink properly, sleep properly, or do anything properly. His health wasn't going to last indefinitely; he was already cheating the percentages, he suspected.
But using his body carelessly wasn't suicide. He'd never even approached suicide. Why?
There seemed no answer.

Related Characters: Robert Neville
Related Symbols: Alcohol
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 13 Quotes

He smiled down at the dog, his throat moving.
"You'll be all better soon," he whispered. "Real soon." The dog looked up at him with its dulled, sick eyes and then its tongue faltered out and licked roughly and moistly across the palm of Neville's hand.
Something broke in Neville's throat. He sat there silently while tears ran slowly down his cheeks.
In a week the dog was dead.

Related Characters: Robert Neville (speaker)
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 14 Quotes

The people twisted and moaned and smote their brows and shrieked in mortal terror and screamed out terrible hallelujahs.
Robert Neville was shoved about, stumbling and lost in a treadmill of hopes, in a crossfire of frenzied worship.
"God has punished us for our great transgressions! God has unleashed the terrible force of His almighty wrath!

Related Characters: Robert Neville
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 15 Quotes

As he strolled, Neville wondered again what he'd do if he found Cortman. True, his plan had always been the same: immediate disposal. But that was on the surface. He knew it wouldn't be that easy. Oh, it wasn't that he felt anything toward Cortman. It wasn't even that Cortman represented a part of the past. The past was dead and he knew it and accepted it.
No, it wasn't either of those things. What it probably was, Neville decided, was that he didn't want to cut off a recreational activity.

Related Characters: Robert Neville, Ben Cortman
Page Number: 108
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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He looked into the eyepiece for a long time. Yes, he knew. And the admission of what he saw changed his entire world. How stupid and ineffective he felt for never having foreseen it! Especially after reading the phrase a hundred, a thousand times. But then he'd never really appreciated it. Such a short phrase it was, but meaning so much.
Bacteria can mutate.

Related Characters: Robert Neville
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 20 Quotes

Robert Neville felt tight fists shaking at his sides. He didn't like the looks of them, he didn't like the methodical butchery. They were more like gangsters than men forced into a situation. There were looks of vicious triumph on their faces, white and stark in the spotlights. Their faces were cruel and emotionless.

Related Characters: Robert Neville
Related Symbols: Vampires
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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"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:

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A coughing chuckle filled his throat. He turned and leaned against the wall while he swallowed the pills. Full circle, he thought while the final lethargy crept into his limbs. Full circle. A new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever.
I am legend.

Related Characters: Robert Neville
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

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Robert Neville Character Timeline in I Am Legend

The timeline below shows where the character Robert Neville appears in I Am Legend. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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Survival and Violence Theme Icon
On a morning in January 1976, a man named Robert Neville walks around his house, carefully checking to see if it’s well-fortified. He checks the planks... (full context)
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The inside of Neville’s house is “entirely functional”—just a bed and some tools. Inside, Neville retrieves a hammer and... (full context)
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Neville smokes a cigarette, has a drink, and then goes back outside to his “hothouse.” Inside... (full context)
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Neville opens his enormous freezer and retrieves frozen vegetables and lamb; he proceeds to cook himself... (full context)
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Neville changes into his pajama bottoms—he’s never worn pajama tops since serving in Panama during “the... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Neville’s alarm goes off at 5:30 am, and Neville gets out of bed. As he stumbles... (full context)
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Neville drives off toward Compton Boulevard and heads east. He stops at a gas station where... (full context)
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Still wearing his gas mask, Neville drives out to a huge, burning pit. The pit has been burning since June 1975,... (full context)
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Neville drives to Inglewood and stops at a market to pick up some bottled water. Inside,... (full context)
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As he drives out to Sears to find a lathe, Neville tries to understand why he needs to use wooden stakes, and why he has to... (full context)
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Neville stops the car to eat his lunch. As he eats, he tries to understand why... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Later in the evening Neville sits at home reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The book is full of silly superstitions and... (full context)
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It’s nighttime. Neville drinks alcohol and hears the voice of Ben Cortman calling out to him. A little... (full context)
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Suddenly, Neville has a profound feeling that he’ll never see another human being again. Frustrated, he breaks... (full context)
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Neville continues drinking. As he becomes slowly drunker, he begins to give a mock-lecture about how... (full context)
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Neville staggers around his house, trying not to think about the beautiful bodies waiting for him... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Neville wakes up around ten o’clock the next morning, very hung-over. He walks outside and sees... (full context)
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Neville decides that he has to get out of his house, even if it’s dangerous to... (full context)
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At the cemetery, Neville goes to Virginia’s crypt. Inside, he’s shocked to see a vampire (not Virginia) curled up,... (full context)
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Neville drives away from the cemetery, still excited with his discovery that sunlight kills the vampires,... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Immediately after the events of the last chapter, Neville speeds home, praying that it isn’t after sunset yet. He remembers that he’s left his... (full context)
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Neville drives back to his house. To his horror, he finds vampires assembled outside—and when they... (full context)
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Neville circles around the corner, the vampires running behind him. He’s careful to drive at a... (full context)
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Safe again, Neville pours himself a whiskey and drinks it quickly. He hears a crash; looking through the... (full context)
Chapter 6
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It is March 1976, and Neville has made his house “livable again.” He’s soundproofed the walls, so that he no longer... (full context)
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One evening, Neville decides that it’s time to begin his investigations into the nature of vampires. He closes... (full context)
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Virginia told Neville that she was feeling strange, but couldn’t put into words what was wrong with her;... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Back in 1976, Neville reads about the chemical composition of garlic, and guesses that the chemical found in garlic... (full context)
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The next morning, Neville tries to understand the power of the cross over vampires. He returns to the female... (full context)
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After sundown, the vampire wakes up, and Neville dangles a cross in front of her face. The vampire looks repulsed, and Neville asks,... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Neville continues to explore the mystery of why vampires are repulsed by crosses. He wonders what... (full context)
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That night, Neville looks out through his peephole and sees Ben Cortman on his front lawn. Cortman has... (full context)
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Neville runs into the kitchen and turns on the water, so that the hose flows on... (full context)
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In the following days, Neville continues experimenting with vampires. He takes female vampires and stabs them with wooden stakes, sometimes... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Neville remembers a morning several years ago—the morning when Virginia’s heart stopped. On this morning, Neville... (full context)
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On the morning Virginia’s heart stops, Neville thinks about the recent death of his daughter, Kathy. After Kathy’s death, Neville threw her... (full context)
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Still in the flashback, Neville steps outside and runs over to his neighbor Ben Cortman’s house, intending to borrow Cortman’s... (full context)
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Neville sews Virginia into a blanket and carries her body to Cortman’s car. As he’s about... (full context)
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Two days after burying Virginia, Neville lies in bed, drunk and unkempt. He hears a knock at the door, opens the... (full context)
Chapter 10
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It’s April 7, 1976, and Neville is exploring the Los Angeles Public Library, intent on finding some books about blood. As... (full context)
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Neville reads that there are two ways to activate the lymphatic system: breathing and physical movements... (full context)
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Neville begins to develop some theories about the vampires. The vampire plague is certainly bacterial in... (full context)
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Neville goes to sleep, still thinking of explanations for how the vampire plague spread so quickly.... (full context)
Chapter 11
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In the next few days, Neville finds a microscope—and then, when he realizes his microscope is no good, a better one.... (full context)
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Neville obtains blood samples from vampires he encounters during his days. One day, he examines a... (full context)
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Neville tries to understand the vampiris germ. He knows that when a human being contracts the... (full context)
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In the evening, Neville continues thinking about the vampiris germ. He realizes that there are two different kinds of... (full context)
Chapter 12
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The next day, Neville notices that his sun lamp has killed the vampiris germs in his slides. He tries... (full context)
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Neville have continued to drink himself to death, the narrator notes, had it not been for... (full context)
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It also occurs to Neville that, if he doesn’t try to help the dog, the vampires will kill it at... (full context)
Chapter 13
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The next day, Neville goes outside and finds that the milk and hamburger are gone; there are also two... (full context)
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As he proceeds with his day, Neville wonders why the vampires have never tried to burn his house down—it seems like such... (full context)
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The next day, Neville opens his front door to allow the dog to come inside; the dog comes, and... (full context)
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Over the next few days, Neville continues to feed the dog, and he also begins to talk to it. Neville has... (full context)
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That night, Neville is eating dinner when he hears the sound of the dog scratching at the linoleum... (full context)
Chapter 14
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After the death of the dog, Neville resists the temptation to drink heavily. Instead, he returns to work trying to understand the... (full context)
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Neville remembers a year ago, just a few days after he put Virginia to “her second... (full context)
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Back in 1976, Neville sits in his living room, reading about psychology. It occurs to him that some of... (full context)
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Neville pauses for a moment and realizes that his life is becoming slowly more bearable. Despite... (full context)
Chapter 15
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It’s June 1978, and Neville is “out hunting for Cortman.” Hunting Cortman has become Neville’s hobby, one of the few... (full context)
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One day, Neville strolls down the streets, searching for Cortman, when he sees a white shape in the... (full context)
Chapter 16
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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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Neville and Ruth eat supper together. Neville explains to Ruth that he doesn’t understand how the... (full context)
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Neville explains to Ruth that crosses are sometimes an effective deterrent to the vampires, but not... (full context)
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Ruth looks at Neville carefully, and says, “You don’t believe a word I’ve said, do you?” Neville demands that... (full context)
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Neville tells Ruth about something else he’s discovered: he can make Cortman panic by waving a... (full context)
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Ruth asks Neville, “Tell me about yourself,” and Neville isn’t sure how to reply. Neville realizes how greatly... (full context)
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Neville also explains that wooden stakes kill the vampires. The stakes don’t have to penetrate the... (full context)
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Ruth then asks Neville a question: if, as he says, some of the vampires are still living, how can... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Very late at night, a sound wakes Neville up from the couch, where he’s been sleeping. Neville cries out, “Virge!” only to realize... (full context)
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Ruth asks Neville, “Why were we punished like this?” Neville says he doesn’t know, and apologizes to Ruth... (full context)
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After a long time, Neville stands up, gets his syringe and proceeds to draw blood from Ruth. He bends over... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Neville wakes up in his house. He sees that the front door is wide open: Ruth... (full context)
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...take special pills that help them tolerate the germ. Ruth explains that she doesn’t blame Neville for killing some of her friends with wooden stakes, as she knows that he was... (full context)
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Neville finds a small pill next to the note. He feels confused about what’s just happened:... (full context)
Chapter 20
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Late at night, Neville looks out of the peephole in his door and sees “them” coming. Then he sees... (full context)
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Neville realizes that the new society is going to kill Ben Cortman, sooner or later—somehow, he... (full context)
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It occurs to Neville that the dark-suited men are going to call for him to come outside and “surrender.”... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Neville wakes up and wonders, “Where am I?” There’s an awful pain in his chest, and... (full context)
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Suddenly the door opens and someone walks in—“my executioner,” Neville thinks. A woman asks, “Are you thirsty?”, gives him some water, then wipes his perspiring... (full context)
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...officer in the new society. Outside, the people of the new society are waiting for Neville’s execution: they are terrified of Neville, and want him dead. Neville nods as he hears... (full context)
Otherness Theme Icon
Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
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Neville stands up, trying to ignore the searing pain in his chest, and walks outside. He... (full context)