A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind

by

Sylvia Nasar

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A Beautiful Mind: Chapter 50 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Upon learning that he has won the Nobel, Nash makes a short, humorous speech after a press conference at Fine Hall. He jokes that he wishes that he had won the whole prize, since “he really needed the money,” and adds that he is glad that game theory, “a subject of great intrinsic intellectual interest,” had been shown to be “of some utility.” In Stockholm, at the prize ceremony, “everything [goes] swimmingly”: at first, Nash seems uncomfortable with the attention he is afforded, but he becomes happier each day. Nash is even able to have a pleasant conversation with the King of Sweden during the private audience that each Laureate receives. He also gives a well-received talk at the University of Uppsala on the topic of developing a mathematical theory for a non-expanding universe.
Despite Stahl’s fears that Nash’s behavior might cause an upset at the Nobel Prize ceremony, Nash is composed and calm: he seems to have regained control over his own behavior. At last, Nash feels secure in himself and his own research; he is rewarded for his groundbreaking work on game theory, which—as he rightfully predicted in the 1950s—has proven to be a valuable field with broad applications.
Themes
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Alicia and Nash still live in the same house in Princeton Junction and see friends regularly. Nash continues to spend his days at the Institute for Advanced Study and the Princeton University library. Some days, Nash feels energetic, as if he might be able to pick up with the research he began before the onset of his illness. Other days, he is unable to work, or he discovers that something he thought was novel has in fact already been discovered. He is often “full of regrets”: “the Nobel cannot restore what he has lost.”
Once again, Nasar emphasizes that Nash’s recovery from schizophrenia is not a linear process: he will never really be “fully recovered,” and he will continue to battle the side effects of the illness—exhaustion, memory loss—for the rest of his life. 
Themes
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In 1995, Nash turns down an offer of $30,000 from Princeton University Press to publish his collected works, since he is wary of “acknowledging that his life oeuvre [was] complete”: he hopes to be able to complete more work in the future, though he, like other older colleagues, knows that mathematics is “a young man’s game.” Still, it takes “extraordinary courage” to be able to return after a hiatus of 30 years. Nash continues to encounter difficulties in his research, which shows that his “thinking is still sharp.”
Nasar also emphasizes that though Nash may struggle to conduct research today, his genius—the product of his remarkable skills as a rational thinker determined to find meaning and order in the most difficult of problems—has been largely unaffected by his illness. Extraordinarily, he is still able to come up with elegant mathematical insights, and he still tackles difficult problems with ease and enthusiasm.
Themes
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Currently, the most important part of Nash’s life are relationships with others: he has made an effort to reconnect with family, friends, and his community. He speaks with his sister Martha once a week, and he takes care of his son Johnny, who was hospitalized for a psychotic break shortly before the Nobel announcement. Johnny has lived at home since his early 20s and does not work. Like Nash, he has experienced delusions and heard voices, and at 38 years old, he is on a number of antipsychotic drugs, which—though they have allowed him to stay out of the hospital—have also not prevented him from having angry, occasionally violent outbursts. Taking care of Johnny “draws Nash and Alicia together and tears them apart,” sometimes causing rifts but also forcing them to collaborate and compromise.
Tragically, Nash’s second-born son, Johnny, also suffers from schizophrenia, the result of a common genetic link. Whereas Nash was once taken care of by his family, Nash now takes care of his own family, helping to provide for Johnny—who remains very ill, despite medical intervention. Though providing for Johnny proves difficult, Nash also finds it rewarding. His relationship with Alicia is stronger than it once was, and he finally understands the power of empathy and generosity—qualities that he previously lacked.
Themes
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As difficult as his life can be, Nash is hopeful that new medications or types of therapy for schizophrenia might be invented, and he experiences moments of joy with Johnny and Alicia. Alicia is still fond of taking care of Nash, and Nash defers to her wishes; she runs their household and encourages Nash—who often speaks his mind, to embarrassing results—to think before he speaks. There is now a sense of “reciprocity” between Alicia and Nash, and the two have considered remarrying.
After all of Alicia’s sacrifices for Nash, Nash is now deferring to Alicia: she is no longer an invisible, behind-the-scenes supporter, but the head of the household, helping to shape Nash into a better person. Nash has finally learned to take responsibility for his own actions, and he now shows Alicia the same love that she showed him during his darkest moments.
Themes
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Love, Desire, and the Impact of Hidden Lives Theme Icon
In 1994, Nash boards a shuttle for Boston to reunite with his older son, John Stier, who lives in Boston with his mother and works as a registered nurse. This is a bittersweet reunion: Nash hopes to make up for his past failings as a father, but he also criticizes Stier’s profession and calls him “less intelligent” than Johnny, sparking still more tensions between them. Nash’s immediate future is uncertain: his remission seems to have held but could be precarious. Yet in recent years, he seems to have achieved a greater level of self-awareness and realized the importance of friends and family, making a “daily effort to give others their due.” This is a “very different man” than the arrogant young mathematician he was before his illness. Today, Nash lives a life in which “thought and emotion are more closely entwined,” rather than separate, and he has become a better—though not perfect—person.
Nasar shows that Nash is not yet a perfect person: he continues to act thoughtlessly at times, and his newfound efforts with his first-born son do not seem to make up for many years of neglect. Ultimately, Nash’s “beautiful mind” does not outweigh the misguided, often cruel behavior he exhibited as a younger man—despite everything he has been able to achieve with this “beautiful mind.” Yet he has become far kinder, gentler, and more empathetic, and he now understands that one cannot lead a purely intellectual life: emotions and relationships matter, too.
Themes
Genius, Morality, and Relationships Theme Icon
Love, Desire, and the Impact of Hidden Lives Theme Icon
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