A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind

by

Sylvia Nasar

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on A Beautiful Mind can help.

A Beautiful Mind: Chapter 42 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Nash is sent to the Carrier Clinic, one of two private mental hospitals in New Jersey. Carrier is known to use aggressive treatments like “chemical straitjackets” and electroshock therapy; though Alicia is worried about committing Nash to this third hospital, she knows that failing to intervene will only lead to “further deterioration.” However, Alicia insists to Carrier’s doctors that Nash cannot receive electroshock therapy, which is frequently administered to schizophrenic patients at Carrier.
Despite the turmoil that Nash and his illness have caused for Alicia, she remains committed to him and worried about his safety, even after their divorce—demonstrating her intense loyalty to Nash. Many of the treatments used to treat mentally ill patients in the 1950s and 1960s were aggressive and even damaging: Alicia has the foresight to see that these treatments might be detrimental to Nash’s health.
Themes
Love, Desire, and the Impact of Hidden Lives Theme Icon
Carrier is more comfortable for Nash than Trenton, and it is here that Nash meets Howard S. Mele, a psychiatrist who will play an important role in his life over the next two years. Nash responds well to an initial drug treatment and is eventually released from the hospital, on the condition that he will find a job. Nash rents a room in Princeton, where he is offered a one-year membership at the Institute for Advanced Study. Eventually, Nash hopes to take up a visiting position at MIT or the University of California, Berkeley; he also hopes to resume his marriage with Alicia, though this seems unlikely.
Nash is fortunate enough to meet Howard S. Mele, an exceptionally kind and helpful psychiatrist who helps Nash to recover from schizophrenia. Though Nash credits his recovery to his own ability to “order” his thoughts, separating fact from fiction, Nasar emphasizes that his recovery is also the result of the tireless efforts of many individuals around him, including Alicia and Mele.
Themes
Mental Illness, Recovery, and the Quest for Knowledge Theme Icon
Love, Desire, and the Impact of Hidden Lives Theme Icon
Milnor, impressed that Nash seems to be working on “interesting” ideas in algebraic geometry, offers Nash a lecturer position at Princeton, with some teaching duties. However, Nash’s mental state has begun to worsen again: he resumes writing nonsensical letters and tries to arrange a research post in France. Nash is granted funds to stay at the Institute for Advanced Study during the summer of 1964 but leaves for Europe instead, where he spends time in Paris and Rome. In Rome, Nash begins to hear voices, which he believes to be “mathematicians opposed to [his] ideas.” Nash returns to Princeton, where he takes to writing “strange messages” on the blackboards of seminar rooms. Mele takes over Nash’s care again and imposes a prescription of antipsychotic drugs; soon, Nash is on his way to Boston, where he will be able to conduct research at Brandeis University, supported by grants that Norman Levinson obtained for him.
Throughout the latter half of A Beautiful Mind, Nasar shows that Nash’s recovery from schizophrenia was hardly a linear process. Nash becomes healthier, then regresses again; he refuses medication, then reluctantly accepts treatment, and his condition improves. Throughout this difficult process, one constant remains. Though Nash loses touch with many people in his life, a number of other people (including Alicia, Mele, and Norman Levinson) continue to take care of him, demonstrating the healing power of friendship and empathy.
Themes
Mental Illness, Recovery, and the Quest for Knowledge Theme Icon
Love, Desire, and the Impact of Hidden Lives Theme Icon