Characters and Analysis
The central figure in the book. As child he shows signs of being gifted in games and solving puzzles and codes. However, he is often withdrawn and alienated from others. This alienation and social awkwardness would continue into adulthood. As he matures he excels in mathematics in college and graduate school.
After taking on a lectureship and a position at a large corporation Nash begins to lose his mind, developing delusions and exhibiting strange behavior like mailing incomprehensible letters to heads of state. As Nash excels in his work, his life and social life continue to deteriorate. In many ways, Nash is an example of a person whose tremendous mental gifts are bound up with his profound mental illness.
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Rather than seeing the two aspects of his personality as expression of one another, the book demonstrates how Nash falls into a severe mental illness and loses his ability to work, but rises from this debilitating fall to regain his life and his career.
Although Nash had a series of relationships with men which were important in drawing him out of his social isolation, Eleanor is the first female with whom he forges a real attachment. Unfortunately, their relationship is rocky from the start.
They have a child who Nash refuses to accept or support. This can be seen as a pivotal moment in his life since his failure to properly bond with her would be something of a catalyst for him falling back into social isolation.
A physicist who falls in love with him, Alicia becomes the woman most attached to Nash. They eventually marry. However, it is not long into their relationship that Nash begins to deteriorate into profound mental illness. She stays with him for as long as she can, but his delusions and bizarre behavior prove too much for her, and she eventually leaves him.
It is at this point that Nash falls into complete madness. He can no longer function at all. Yet, it is also Alicia who is there for him when he begins to finally recover. After years of struggling with schizophrenia, he and Alicia are reunited, and he finds his way back to health.