We’ve looked at four different versions of I Am Legend: Richard Matheson’s original 1954 novella; the 1964 film version, Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price; the 1971 remake, The Omega Man, with Charlton Heston; and, the latest remix, I Am Legend (2007) with Will Smith. Your goal in this essay is to explain the significance of changes in the post-apocalyptic narrative over time – – i.e. what changes in the narrative and what these changes mean.
Your essay should be no more than two pages – – standard 8 1/2 by 11 paper, double spaced, font size no smaller than “12,” and one-inch margins.
The essay is due – – you’ll share the google doc version with me (at email@example.com) – – at the beginning of class on Tuesday, March 2.
To accomplish your mission, you’ll want to:
- start by choosing one concrete thematic or formal element shared by all four versions of the narrative. Think of the work we did with the motifs of “the dog” and “the car” in our discussions of each version. Other thematic motifs might include: the “new Eve” (Ruth/Lisa/Anna), setting, the house, the antagonist/s, “Ben Cortman,” etc. (Remember, an absence can be as significant as a presence – – i.e. the absence of “the dog” in The Omega Man.) “Formal elements” refers to things like: story beginnings and endings; character traits (Matheson’s Neville vs. Will Smith’s etc.); setting; flashbacks; narrative structure; use of extra-diegetic effects like sound, and music. When we meet on Thursday, we can chat briefly about these shared but mutated elements.
- decide which versions of the “I Am Legend” narrative you want to discuss. You don’t have to write about all four, but you should discuss at least three.
- try to organize your essay around points of comparison and contrast, rather than the texts themselves
- use specific examples to illustrate and develop your argument
- avoid plot summary at all costs. Think about your essay this way: you are making an argument about some particular motif – – any and all examples should be included only if they support or develop this argument. Without an argument, you’ll probably end up just summarizing plot.
You only have two pages to work with, so you must focus on being direct and efficient in your prose and analysis. Draft and revise then revise some more.
To keep things compact, you can refer to our texts simply as: (IAL) for the original Matheson novella; (LME) for the 1964 movie; (OM) for the 1971 version; and, (IAL 2007) for the latest version.
As always, the “three strikes and you’re out rule” applies. At the third typographical, spelling, grammar, or punctuation error, I stop reading and evaluate only what I’ve read. In other words, proofread your prose.