Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.
A Beautiful Mind
Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind is a biopic about John Nash, a gifted mathematician, who suffers from bouts of paranoid schizophrenia. The film, starring Russell Crowe as John Nash, explores Nash's pursuit of love and knowledge while battling mental illness. The following discussion questions may be used with secondary classrooms after viewing this film.
Characters and Setting
The questions in this section introduce John and Alicia Nash and their academic pursuits.
- Describe the settings in this film. How do these settings contribute to themes related to the continuous pursuit of knowledge?
- What adjectives would you use to describe John Nash? What are Nash's strengths and weaknesses? How does Nash use his weaknesses to inspire his work? How do your weaknesses support your strengths?
- Describe John and Alicia's relationship. What are the things that attract them to each other? What do you think are the most important elements of a good relationship? How does a strong foundation enable their relationship to continue during tough times?
This section includes questions that review Nash's mental illness and its diagnosis.
- Who is William Parcher? Why does Nash think he was selected by Parcher for this important mission? Compare reality to Nash's perceptions. What do you think motivates Nash's delusions? How is Nash able to conceal his delusions up to this point?
- What are some specific behaviors Nash exhibits that alert Alicia of a problem? How does Alicia support her husband through this episode? What would you have done? Explain your answer.
- What is Nash's impression of the psychiatric facility? How is Alicia able to help Nash see the truth? Connect this to a time when someone close to you believed something that is not true. What are the struggles with convincing another person of their faulty thinking?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of Nash's antipsychotic medications? What are the consequences for Nash's family for getting off his medications? Why do you think it is so difficult to keep mentally ill patients on their medications?
Coping with Mental Illness
The following questions examine Nash's coping mechanisms and the impact of his mental illness on his career.
- How does Nash decide to cope with his mental illness? What do you think of this strategy? What adjustments does Alicia make to help Nash deal with his illness? What would you do differently?
- How does mental illness affect Nash professionally? What are some accommodations the university makes that enable Nash to continue working? Identify some of the needs of mentally ill people. Who should be responsible for fulfilling those needs? Explain your answer. What are the consequences to the community if these needs are not filled?
- Why do you think the filmmaker thought it was important to show that Nash won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences while battling mental illness? What are some specific examples of ways Nash persevered despite challenges? What can you learn from Nash's example?
- Why do you think the filmmaker chose to make this film? How does the message of this film apply to other challenges?
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