Dystopian genres characterize upon the concept of a dehumanized and frightening world. Quintessential ideals that associate with this genre demonstrate themes such as fear, totalitarianism, loss of history, and the individual (Explore-Science-Fiction-Movies). It is the general aspect of what molds and shapes someone, or something to continue throughout their course of action. These characteristics capitalize upon another genre, horror fiction, in which Richard Matheson employs both these genres to build upon curiosity, suspense, and emotional distress in this dystopian world (Carroll 54-55), Matheson utilizes an angle of horror in I Am Legend to build upon the “last” survivor of the world. Matheson capitalizes upon the belief of survival of the fittest in order to depict the cause and effect of every action. Matheson constitutes a parallel between normal human life that we are accustomed to, and the dystopian latter to show how easily they can flip on one another. I Am Legend seeks to emphasize the possibility that society itself can easily become a dystopia through its gritty, raw portrayal drawn from the horror genre. Distributing fear about isolation and a spur lifestyle within the text. Matheson’s use of illusionary reference to our own world, toys with one’s mind and vicariously shows what may await human future.
By stripping the companionship of all other living things from the protagonist of I Am Legend, the significance of human relations and contact is realized. The so-called hero, Robert Neville is represented as a victim and ironically also as a hunter. Forced into a slippery slope of emotions, Neville’s complex personality is exemplified in intimate and heart gripping scenes. Such an instance would be when he journeyed to a crypt in another city to mourn for his wife, Virginia. With his sense of time crippled, Neville is often found reminiscing on what was lost and toils in regret. There are moments that are prolonged and drawn out to build suspense, like when Neville is to return home after being reckless with his schedule full of dread of what awaits him there. Terror and fear are pounded into our protagonist, as well as the readers who cannot help but feel curious in these critical suspenseful moments. Especially when he returns home at the peak of night to discover a horde of vampires bent on killing him. Seeing Neville fight for his life in a situation of kill or be killed develops a minute of distress set forth by Matheson’s dystopian/horror genre (17-24). The human lifestyle is painstakingly illustrated in the horror that encompasses the loss of a loved one. Life and death situations to do what is needed, or to even lose one’s humanity, it is the use of the story’s genre that questions what if this was real and how situations like these capture human life. With the perceptive loss of some type of sentimental value that is highly regarded in the eyes of the bewildered, it is an unforeseen tragic event that becomes a reminiscing memory that shapes an individual. An unwanted grunting memory or occurrence that has had hopes and wishes to be altered, but remains a nightmarish figure of horror and regret. For Neville, it was “Strange how it brought back memories. Virginia, Kathy, all those horrible days…” (Matheson 34) the pain and remorse of what was, was a turmoil of regret to live in of what could have changed. A pain of remembrance, where the past just cannot be buried as it will resurface one way or another. Matheson’s use of pathos to get a mutual understanding from the reader is outlined by Noël Carroll’s The Nature of Horror. With “the current ascendancy of the genre of horror” it “may be the mass popular expression of the same anxiety concerning criteria that preoccupies the more esoteric forms of postmodernism” (Carroll 58). Common ideals of how life and horror relate to one another meet as part of the dystopian aspect on struggling for survival and the uncontrollable paranoia that encompasses it. To define what is worth the trouble, Matheson highlights the importance of what memories are by relating them through horror. He often brings up the past to bring some causation to one’s actions. Such an instance occurs Robert Neville succumbs to a mental breakdown after building up so much grief (Matheson 24, 34). A breakdown that served to present a moral lesson that one must learn to move on. Living in the past in itself acts a dosage of self-induced revenge.
In various ways, the social aspects of today’s government hierarchies dictate the course of action toward the approach of many scenarios. One’s own interpretation of information can be counterproductive approaching a political or dangerous problem with ease or force. An example of this concept is when Neville comes across a woman named Ruth in a vast open space. Neville was suspicious and paranoid of this woman due to his belief that he was the last man alive. Having the right to be cautious, Neville later discovers Ruth was actually a spy entitled to finding information. Ruth a part of a society that matured from the mutation of the bacterial infection. They feared the man that was different and set a goal to rid the world of Neville as he was a threat to their societies needs to prosper without fear. Neville who once thought he was doing mankind a favor was actually the villain. He was an evil being that destroyed their own kind for years (Matheson 89-91). The irony of the good he had attempted was that they were actually heinous crimes to the new governmental society. Forced onto him without his consent, he had no other prestigious thought of going in and succumbing to their actions. Flip flopping between dystopian societies and horror, it is known that much of what occurs in the genres is “symbolic; that is, its deepest meanings exist on a sub textual level. “Beneath its veneers… horror consistently reminds us of human vulnerability” (Morrison 2). “The horror and dystopian genre is what drew us in” and points out flaws in our own governmental society (Richard Spurring). Fear is what drives us to protect our weaknesses. An example can be traced back to the Cuban missile crisis as a fear of the nuclear-armed Soviet Russia could have had a negative impact to both sides to the brink of destruction of the world. The use of government policies is important as it determines how to handle particular situations such as this. Fear played a big part within the situation as it was the driving point on how everything was handled. Capturing the themes of a frightening possibility that a dystopian society is in our near future. Richard Matheson’s capability of using I Am Legend’s genre to characterize the characteristics of human nature fulfills the establishment of taking the reader into an alternate world. By using fear, totalitarianism, loss of history, and the individual, the perpetual embodiment of horror is established. Using the characteristics of dystopia genres as well to capture his point. It was Matheson’s crowning achievement that set it apart from the rest. By relating how societies are closely related to one another and how they can turn on each other easily, it is survival of the fittest. Those that cannot go on fall victim and perish, but even the fittest can fall victim with the slightest of slip-ups. A concept highlighted in Robert Neville’s death by the mutated vampire society. It is I Am Legend’s concept that one must learn and adapt to harmonize with the workflow of life. It simply is not easy, and the horror the life awaits are endless. Yet the ability to carry on and strive to live another day, just like Neville, demonstrates how strong the will of humans can be. Matheson draws the parallel between human life and literature as they both can flip onto each other for influence and insight.
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