A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind

by

Sylvia Nasar

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A Beautiful Mind: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
For most of his life, Nash seemed to “live inside his own head,” unable to form mature, lasting bonds with others: he is more interested in “patterns,” not relationships, and the independence and resources of his own “powerfulness, fearless, fertile mind.” Yet during his first years at MIT, he begins to discover that he does want—in fact, needs—to cultivate relationships with other people. During this period in his life, Nash would become “emotionally involved” with at least three other men, abandon a “secret mistress” who would have his child, and eventually marry his wife, Alicia Nash. As Nash begins to form complicated, intimate connections, his life begins to resemble a play in which the scenes are acted by two characters—one who remains a constant throughout the play, and another who periodically vanishes.
Up until this point, Nash seemed to place a high value on only one relationship in his life: his relationship with himself. Yet in his 20s, Nash realizes the power of his desire for others, and he begins to carry on passionate, often tumultuous affairs with both men and women. These affairs seem to transform him into a different person: as he becomes involved with different lovers, he leaves behind his persona as an aloof, detached mathematician, throwing himself into the murky waters of love.
Themes
Love, Desire, and the Impact of Hidden Lives Theme Icon
In a letter he wrote in the 1960s, Nash compared himself to an equation representing a three-dimensional hyperspace, which has a “singularity,” or a special point at the origin, in four-dimensional space: Nash is this “singularity,” and the other variables in space are people with whom he interacted and carried on affairs. Nash often did not realize the effect he could have on others, wishing that the people around him could be “satisfied with his genius”—and not want any “emotional needs for connectedness” from him.
As Nash begins to form intense relationships with others, he thinks of himself as a “singularity”—an important individual around whom other “variables,” other people, revolve. Though becoming intimate with others gives Nash the opportunity to become more attuned to others’ feelings, he fails to learn empathy and continues to act arrogantly.
Themes
Genius, Morality, and Relationships Theme Icon
Love, Desire, and the Impact of Hidden Lives Theme Icon
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