#HamilTALONS: A Theme Map
After catching the Hamilton bug (it seems to have spread throughout Room 111 in Block 4), I was excited to start on our final project for the American Rev. unit: a theme map surrounding a statement that is mentioned throughout the musical. Having previously studied the song “Helpless”, where Point of View is extremely prominent when coupled with the following song “Satisfied”, it seemed to be the suitable choice for me.
As for the presentation aspect of my map, I originally planned to create a spin-off from the Hamilton logo, putting my theme statement inside of the star and using the “Hamilton” font (Trajan Pro) to give the map a poster-esque atmosphere. Upon browsing the maps of those who have already posted theirs, I realized it would be an incredibly popular design, and decided to create an interactive Prezi.
(Please turn on sound to listen to music overlays on Prezi)
Instead of clogging the page up with words, I decided to photoshop pictures of characters, and when the next slide is featured, a quote from the musical is played. (It makes a lot more sense when you’re watching the presentation)
Since I only have one complete sentence of text on the Prezi, here is a more detailed description of the mind map:
Theme statement: Interpretations of historical events and figures entirely depend on who is telling it.
With no consistent narrator throughout the play (as seen in my pie chart on my Prezi), the narrative is constantly shifting. That means that such contrasting characters (particularly Burr and Hamilton) will provide significantly different accounts of historical events. For example:
- Helpless/Satisfied: Both songs are about the exact same event: Hamilton meeting Angelica and Eliza. In Eliza’s number, there are only a few allusions to Hamilton and Angelica’s mutual attraction to each other. But in “Satisfied”, Angelica puts a whole new spin on the story, revealing a detailed (and fast-paced) account on how she and Hamilton were perfect matches for each other right away, but Angelica realized that Hamilton had to marry Eliza. (If this sounds confusing, it is. I put a link to the Genius page about each song above)
- The Room Where it Happens: Narrated by Burr, the entire song is basically about how there was only Thomas Jefferson’s account of the famous dinner between Hamilton, Jefferson, and James Madison. Jefferson made it sound like Hamilton was pleading for a compromise, and Jefferson and Madison grudgingly accepted, when in fact none of his story could be true. But since we only have Jefferson’s point of view of the dinner, it seems as if Hamilton really was “in distress ‘n disarray”.
- The World Was Wide Enough: The age-old question of the Hamilton/Burr duel is not exactly answered in the penultimate song: who shot first, and who aimed to kill? Burr saw Hamilton wearing his glasses, and fiddling with the hair-trigger of his pistol, leading him to believe that Hamilton would fire at him. But in his last monologue, Hamilton realizes he is to go to the “other side”, and clearly raises his pistol at the sky. Historically, Hamilton did shoot several feet wide of Burr. But did he do it because it was an involuntary action after being shot, or did Hamilton clearly shoot wide first and Burr killed him anyway? Lin-Manuel Miranda himself revealed in “Hamilton: The Revolution” that he didn’t want to clearly answer the question.
- Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story: Because Hamilton was outlived by most of the Founding Fathers, his legacy was tainted for most of the years following his death (as seen in Angelica’s quote “Every other Founding Father’s story gets told/Every other Founding Father gets to grow old”) In the final song, Jefferson and Madison both admit how well his financial plan worked, yet do not say more about his other accomplishment. However, Eliza attempted to shed light on Hamilton’s countless accolades, yet her work was mostly forgotten for decades.
Because of its occurrence in any historical event, there are several connections between this theme and our curriculum:
- Disparities in power: sometimes one account becomes the widely accepted one because the person who is telling it has a better pedigree or a higher social ranking than the opposing story’s narrator.
- Collective identity: because of how one story becomes more mainstream, it can even shape a whole group’s identity (how people believed for years that Christopher Columbus was a hero)
- Emerging ideas: when a different historical account becomes popular, it profoundly changes our opinion on a person (i.e. Columbus and Hamilton)
- Basically EVERY SINGLE HISTORICAL EVENT (because there will always be two completely different accounts of anything that every happened)
This theme is perhaps the most important of the musical: it teaches us that no matter how convincing something sounds, there is always a historical interpretation that says the exact opposite. In Hamilton, through the stories of Eliza and Angelica both falling for him, Jefferson’s bragging account of an infamous dinner, what exactly occurred in Weehawken on a sunny July day in 1804, and how Hamilton was quashed by his political foes for years after his death, we learn to take every single sentence of any historical account with a grain of salt. Because we know that even protagonists aren’t always right, and learning both sides of a story are crucial to becoming a better historian, a better student, and a better person.