I just want to start off by saying how much I loved this book. The humanity that Matheson presents in the story is genius. He created a setting that actually brings the human qualities of Robert Neville into even sharper focus. I believe that is what makes the story great. It is not just the story line that is important and it is not just the characters; to make a great story the writer needs both.
The final line of this book explains the title; I Am Legend. I am the type of person to appreciate a good title and the main reason why is because I am horrible at thinking of titles. Throughout the story I did wonder what the title meant and I made speculations in my head. My main train of thought was that he does something amazing and becomes a legend; this is the reasoning in the 2007 movie.
But this is not the reason in the book. The reasoning behind the title here is much more unique and interesting. This excerpt leading up to the end of the book especially grabbed me and sums up the meaning of the title pretty well:
"Robert Neville looked out over the new people of the earth. He knew he did not belong to them; he knew that, like the vampires, he was anathema and black terror to be destroyed. And, abruptly, the concept came, amusing to him even in his pain.
… Full circle, he thought while the final lethargy crept into his limbs. Full circle. A new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever.
I am legend." (I Am Legend, pg. 170)
I think that Matheson's choice of words in this text is interesting. The first part that really grabbed me was "black terror." It seemed like an odd choice of wording so I thought it might mean something. I used Wikipedia to investigate and found that Black Terror was a comic book super hero from the early to late 1940's. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Terror. Since the book was written in 1954 Matheson could very well be referring to that. The superhero does have some similarities with Robert Neville, mainly with both being the heroes of the book, but also Black Terror was a pharmacist by day working with chemicals and Neville also experimented on the cause of the infection in the novel. The term "black terror" also reminded me of the Black Plague or the bubonic plague, which Matheson does mention and associates with the events in the novel. He also implies that whatever is responsible for the infection taking place in the book might have connection with the black plague.
My main interest, though, is how in the novel Neville will become a legend, lore, or a myth. Matheson makes this idea interesting by making Neville a myth not because of his actions necessarily, but because of his humanity. A year ago Neville was normal. The way Neville acted and thought was the norm. But now after the infection people seem to have resorted to primal living. They have gone "full circle." Again Matheson's choice of words is very descriptive and makes the reader think. This idea of Neville becoming a legend because of his emotions highlights the theme of this book; humanity.