I Am Legend

Vampires Symbol Analysis

Vampires Symbol Icon

Entire books have been written about what, exactly, the vampires in I Am Legend symbolize. Science fiction scholars have convincingly argued that the vampires symbolize the African American civil rights movement, which was gaining power during Matheson’s time in Los Angeles (and which was widely vilified at the time). Others have argued that vampires evoke the increasingly public sexuality of 1950s America. Still others have found parallels between the vampires and the California gay culture of the era. While all these theories have some merit, it’s hard to find one convincing symbolic explanation for the vampires. Perhaps instead of symbolizing one specific group of people who were persecuted in 1950s America, the vampires symbolize Otherness itself—and the way that people often instinctually resort to violence, fear, and superstition when responding to people who are unlike them.

Vampires Quotes in I Am Legend

The I Am Legend quotes below all refer to the symbol of Vampires. 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 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 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 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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Vampires Symbol Timeline in I Am Legend

The timeline below shows where the symbol Vampires appears in I Am Legend. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
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...A man named Dr. Busch once told him to drive the wooden stakes into the vampires’ hearts, so Neville follows this advice, but has no way of understanding Busch’s reasoning. Neville... (full context)
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...car to eat his lunch. As he eats, he tries to understand why garlic hurts vampires, and why vampires hate sunlight, wooden stakes, mirrors, and crosses. He also accepts that some... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...home reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The book is full of silly superstitions and legends about vampires, but its basic premise is sound, Neville decides: throughout history, vampires have been deadly because... (full context)
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...Cortman calling out to him. A little drunk, he contemplates going out to join the vampires, so that he can “be one of them,” but then reminds himself why he doesn’t... (full context)
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...drinking. As he becomes slowly drunker, he begins to give a mock-lecture about how the vampire is a persecuted minority—hated throughout history. He wonders aloud if a deadly vampire is any... (full context)
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...bar that keeps the door locked. As he lifts the bar, he can hear the vampires outside howling with excitement. Then, suddenly, Neville lets the bar fall again, and walks back... (full context)
Chapter 4
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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, asleep. Furious, he drags the body out of the crypt and... (full context)
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Neville drives away from the cemetery, still excited with his discovery that sunlight kills the vampires, or at least some vampires. He stops by a house, carrying his wooden stake and... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...his garage door open, meaning that he could return home to find a pack of vampires waiting for him. (full context)
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Neville drives back to his house. To his horror, he finds vampires assembled outside—and when they see his car, they run toward him. Neville drives his car... (full context)
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Neville circles around the corner, the vampires running behind him. He’s careful to drive at a slow pace—just fast enough for the... (full context)
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...quickly. He hears a crash; looking through the peephole in his door, he sees the vampires destroying his station wagon with rocks. Furious, Neville goes to his fridge—only to realize that... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...the walls, so that he no longer has to listen to the sound of the vampires howling at him every night. He’s also managed to find a new, reliable car in... (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 his eyes and thinks back on a morning he spent with Virginia, several... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...about the chemical composition of garlic, and guesses that the chemical found in garlic that vampires hate is allyl sulphide. He reads about how to prepare allyl sulphide, and goes outside... (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 vampire whom he injected with allyl sulphide, carries her back... (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... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Neville continues to explore the mystery of why vampires are repulsed by crosses. He wonders what a Mohammedan (i.e., Muslim) vampire would do if... (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 in the heart, sometimes... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...activate the lymphatic system: breathing and physical movements (such as compressions of the chest). But vampires do not breathe, he knows—at least not the dead vampires. This means that at least... (full context)
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Neville begins to develop some theories about the vampires. The vampire plague is certainly bacterial in nature; it’s possible that it spread so quickly... (full context)
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Neville goes to sleep, still thinking of explanations for how the vampire plague spread so quickly. At three in the morning, he wakes up to the sound... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Neville obtains blood samples from vampires he encounters during his days. One day, he examines a blood slide under the microscope... (full context)
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...blood, they’ll eventually die: the vampiris gene will take over their bodies. Then, after the vampires’ bodies decompose, the vampiris gene will be swept to potential new hosts, thanks to the... (full context)
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...continues thinking about the vampiris germ. He realizes that there are two different kinds of vampires. Some vampires originate from the corpses of human beings; these vampires are entirely controlled by... (full context)
Chapter 12
Otherness Theme Icon
Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
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...vampiris germs in his slides. He tries to kill the vampiris bacterium—taken both from living vampires and from dead vampires—with allyl sulphide (the chemical found in garlic), but to no avail.... (full context)
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...dog roving about on the lawn. Although Neville knows from experience that dogs can become vampires, it’s obvious to him that this is no vampire—it seems to be an ordinary animal.... (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 night. He leaves a bowl of milk and some hamburger meat... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...hamburger has been dragged over the garlic, suggesting that the dog took it, not the vampires. Neville takes the two bodies to the fire, and later leaves out more food for... (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 an obvious tactic. Perhaps... (full context)
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...He realizes that the animal is trying to dig a hole to hide from the vampires. Neville becomes sick to his stomach; he knows that he needs to find a way... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...resists the temptation to drink heavily. Instead, he returns to work trying to understand the vampires. (full context)
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...is joined together in prayer. The people pray that God will protect them from the vampires. A preacher yells out that God is punishing human beings for their sins by sending... (full context)
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...in his living room, reading about psychology. It occurs to him that some of the vampires’ behaviors—for example, their aversion to the cross—could be psychological, not bacterial in origin. During the... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...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. (full context)
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...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.” (full context)
Chapter 17
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...and Ruth eat supper together. Neville explains to Ruth that he doesn’t understand how the vampires are surviving: surely their nourishment is running out, and they spend their days lying in... (full context)
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Neville explains to Ruth that crosses are sometimes an effective deterrent to the vampires, but not always. Vampires who weren’t Christians in life don’t care about crosses. As he... (full context)
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...life, the sight of the Jewish holy book would naturally make him frightened as a vampire. Neville also tells Ruth that bullets have no effect on dead vampires. Privately, Neville thinks... (full context)
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...interact with other people. Ruth, sensing Neville’s discomfort, asks him to tell her about the vampire plague instead. Neville explains that the vampire plague is caused by a vampiris germ. This... (full context)
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Neville also explains that wooden stakes kill the vampires. The stakes don’t have to penetrate the heart, contrary to legend; anywhere on the body... (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 Neville know “they’re not going to stay alive?” Neville, feeling... (full context)
Chapter 20
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...is violent, but only for the sake of survival. The new society consists of living vampires, and they kill dead vampires—Neville’s mistake was that he killed both dead and living vampires.... (full context)