I Am Legend


Richard Matheson

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Themes and Colors
Otherness Theme Icon
Grief, Loneliness, and Depression Theme Icon
Survival and Violence Theme Icon
Science Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in I Am Legend, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.


Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is a science fiction adventure and a terrifying horror story. But unlike most works of horror, I Am Legend is not a black-and-white tale of “us versus them”; in other words, a story in which a hero fights off a monstrous villain. Matheson’s novel is set in a futuristic version of Los Angeles, in which Robert Neville, the last man left on Earth, fights against a terrifying race of…

read analysis of Otherness

Grief, Loneliness, and Depression

I Am Legend contains a surprising amount of psychological insight about grief, loneliness, and depression. The novel’s main character, Robert Neville, is the last human being left on Earth—everyone else has been turned into a vampire. Neville thus has to deal with the psychological effects of being completely alone—a fate that is, in some ways, worse than becoming a vampire.

Without any human connection whatsoever, Neville is forced to take refuge in his…

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Survival and Violence

In I Am Legend, Robert Neville spends his days traveling around Los Angeles, driving stakes into the hearts of vampires—in effect, murdering them in their sleep. Neville is sometimes sympathetic to the vampires (see Otherness theme), yet he continues to kill them, reasoning that if he doesn’t, they’ll kill him at night. In general, the novel studies the lengths to which ordinary people will go to survive in a time of crisis. In…

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Another important theme of I Am Legend is the power—both benevolent and malicious—of science. Throughout the book, Robert Neville studies the science of vampirism. In the process, he empowers himself and gives himself a new purpose in life. By researching epidemiology, bacteriology, and other “ologies” at the Los Angeles Public Library, Neville comes to realize that vampires aren’t supernatural monsters—they’re just human beings suffering from a serious disease. Neville’s discovery helps him conquer his own…

read analysis of Science