Exploring Isolation in I am Legend

5 May 2016

As John Donne said “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of a continent, a part of the main.” Donne believes man cannot live a happy, successful life on his own without any connection to other living things.

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Loneliness and seclusion are extremely prevalent issues in the 21st century society primarily because we find increasing reliability to non-verbal interaction, rising globalization and reliance on technology.

In Richard Matheson’s “I am Legend”, the effects of isolation on man’s psyche and overall well being are demonstrated through Robert Neville’s need for companionship, constant interior monologue and his various addictions. Matheson in essence predicted what the 21st century would be like, as there are many parallels between the novella and the lives of people today.

Humans are desperate for companionship and Neville is no exception, his state of isolation has made him eager for any form of contact whether it is human or not. When Neville discovers a dog that has not been infected by the virus his entire life changes, he feels as though he has value, purpose and more importantly the need to care for something again.

Once the first promising companion appears in his life and instantly dies Robert finds himself in an intense state of depression, “to come across a living being after all this time, to find a companion and then to lose it” (Matheson,84). He developed something with the dog that he had not experienced since Virginia’s death, which made it difficult for him to let go.

The second time this same scenario occurs is with a “human” named Ruth. This new human contact seems oddly similar to the past situation as “all she did was cower in the corner the way the dog had done, she wouldn’t eat or drink anything he gave her” (115). Ruth seems suspicious as she could very well be a vampire but Robert’s need for companionship over powers his need to question and distrust her.

When Neville finds out she is in fact a vampire the physical damage from her attacking him is not even comparable to the impact on his psyche. Neville loses his mind, he was able to trust and find solace in the first person he had seen in years and she turned out to be the one thing he despised more than anything. If man’s needs (companionship or otherwise) go unsatisfied they will eventually take an enormous toll on his thoughts which can be seen through Neville’s interior monologue.

Contemporary Applications:
Our heavy reliance on technology – Technology makes us very anti-social and sets us up for a state of isolation in our every day lives Our lack of verbal communications with others – almost all communication is electronic (Facebook, texting, Twitter) Feral children are raised in isolation and usually can not be placed back into society after because of their lack of behavioral skills We often confided in one companion – for Robert that was Ruth, for people today it is usually our spouse/ best friend

Works Cited

Donne, John. “‘No Man Is an Island’ – John Donne.” ‘No Man Is an Island’ – John Donne. Geoff Johnson, n.d. Web. 01 Oct. 2013.

Matheson, Richard. I Am Legend. New York: ORB, 1995. Print.

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