Quotations and Analysis
“His best friends were books, and he was always happiest on his own.”
This is from page 32 and it reveals the path Nash’s life would take both in terms of his success and his debilitating mental illness. Nash is most at ease in books, and he is always happiest when he is all alone. He has profound difficulty interacting socially and forging friendships. Nash finds his deepest connection in being intellectually engaged and for this reason he is a legitimate genius, able to make mathematical breakthroughs which are truly novel. Yet, he is so deeply alienated from others that his grip on reality begins to fall apart.
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“Nash had never in his life encountered anything like this exotic little mathematical hothouse. It would soon provide him with the emotional and intellectual context he so much needed to express himself.”
This quotation refers to the environment Nash finds at Princeton. In Chapter 4 we are told that it is at Princeton that Nash finally finds the intellectual world that is truly up to his talents and abilities. Nash was strangely not a particularly good student at MIT. He did not like the long and drawn out process of being an undergraduate. It was at Princeton where he was allowed to go off into his own research and where he really flourished. As with everything else in his life, this was Nash’s blessing and his downfall. His singular talents were also part of his isolated way of existing.
“But it was nonetheless decisive because for the first time he found not rejection but reciprocity. Thus it was the first real step out of his extreme emotional isolation.”
It is in Chapter 22, Page 170 that Nash discovers that he does need the companionship of others. His first relationship is with a man, and although it is a brief and largely sexual intimacy, Nash discovers that the reciprocal emotional attention he gives and receives with this man is critically important to his long-term ability to connect with people. This relationship first draws him out of his isolation.
“Nash has come to a life in which thought and emotion are more closely entwined, where getting and giving are central, and relationships are more symmetrical.”
This comes toward the end on page 388. After his long struggle with schizophrenia and his return to sanity, Nash discovers that his single-minded focus on the intellect over emotion was extremely damaging. In many ways, this is one of the larger conclusions of the book, that real mental health consists of a balance between the intellect and emotion. The ideals of reciprocity are central to Nash’s recovery and his continuing ability to work and remain attached to other people.