Major Themes about A Beautiful Mind
Patterns and Codes
This theme plays out through the entire book. In his early life, patterns and codes are the things which draw his attention and imagination. He loves them, and he invents his own. This tendency is what leads others to recognize his genius and particular talents. As he matures, patterns and codes become a subject of study and analysis. His interest and ability to work with complex patterns make are what allow him to excel as a mathematician and distinguish his work as unique.
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However, as he begins to develop signs of schizophrenia, patterns and codes start to take on the symptoms of his mental illness. He begins to see patterns where there are none, and this leads him to start seeing threats in these delusional patterns. However, the road to recovery and health is also marked by his ability to recognize and analyze complex patterns and codes. It is his research into the complexity of patterns which leads to his Nobel Prize in Mathematics.
“Lost in Thought”
Much like the patterns and codes, Nash’s tendency to be lost in thought first reveals him to be an especially brilliant young boy. His mind is so deeply preoccupied with his thoughts that he is often seen on his own turning ideas over. This runs throughout the book as Nash displays this tendency throughout his life.
In his early studies, and in his own research, Nash is frequently seen lost in his own thoughts. Yet, this tendency begins to take over his life as his schizophrenia drives him deeper into his own world. As he becomes ill, being lost in his own thoughts takes on a darker meaning. He can no longer make contact with others in any a meaningful way.
Games operate as an image of Nash’s deep self-centered ways of thinking. Early in his life he invents games which no one understands them but him. He claims these games are based on pure strategy and do not rely on luck. On the one hand, this demonstrates his deep intellectually investments in analytical thinking.
On the other hand, these games reveal his tendency to shut others out of his life. His games are complex and mathematically sound, yet they are inaccessible just like him. Later in life, his interest in game theory leads him to gain original insight into complex mathematical ideas which leads to his success. Like everything in the book, these themes work in both directions. They are signs of his unique abilities, and they are signs of his particular difficulties.