Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story
Start writing a post

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

How Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton Inspired Me

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

Have you ever been inspired by something? No, not just picked up an idea for a creative project or gave you a reason to do whatever. I mean has something ever brought your passions up from the deepest part of your soul, and given you motivation and drive to pursue them on a more active level than you ever have before? My friends, I have recently been inspired in such a way by Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Hamilton."


My younger sister, as an aspiring Broadway starlet, keeps a close eye on the musical theatre scene. She probably one of the first people in our house to know about the show. I remember her showing me some clips from the Broadway preview video on YouTube(yes, they have those), and being...unimpressed. Honestly, I had never been a big fan of the hip-hop/rap musical styles that the show is built on and based around. The video didn't convince me; showing me a series of disconnected snippets of songs from throughout the show is not the best way to engage someone who enjoys the flow of a show.

The cast album was first available via NPR sometime in September. I remember my parents sending me the links via e-mail. I listened to the entire first act that night; once I got over the musical style, it was pretty good. The lyrics were interesting and complexly rhymed, and also did a good job carrying the story, a vital facet of any sung-through show. I didn't find the premise strange; uncommon and intriguing, yes, but for a girl whose favorite musical is about a supercomputer pill that makes you cool, an unconventional concept doesn't repulse.

I didn't listen to the second act in its entirety until Christmas Break. Crazy, huh? I started on it over school, but didn't really have the time to listen through fully. It wasn't until I was listening to the album with my mother on her iPod while making Christmas cookies that I got to hear the emotionally-powerful second act. It's honestly stronger in that respect than the first, especially while playing all the way through. That was when I heard this song.

It may not seem that immediately poignant (my mom is obviously alive), but this song made me realize something: Alexander Hamilton was a writer. The song itself is about an incident glossed over in the show's introductory song:

Then a hurricane came, and devastation reigned/Our man saw his future drip, dripping down the drain/Put a pencil to his temple, connected it to his brain/And he wrote his first refrain, a testament to his pain/Well, the word got around, they said, “This kid is insane, man”/Took up a collection just to send him to the mainland

To translate slightly, when Hamilton was 17, working as a trading clerk on the island of St. Croix in the West Indies, a hurricane hit the main settlement. Hamilton, in the wake of the storm, wrote a descriptive account of the storm which was published in the local newspaper(that due to time and historians is available via internet). And then...well, in the words of the song:

I [Hamilton] looked up and the town had its eyes on me//They passed a plate around/Total strangers/Moved to kindness by my story/Raised enough for me to book passage on a/Ship that was New York bound…

Hamilton, by his writing skills, took himself from a small Caribbean island to New York City, at the time the second largest city in Colonial America, on the verge of the American Revolution. He didn't stop there. He wrote letters for George Washington as his aide-de-campe, he wooed his wife Eliza in the sort of letter courtship immortalized by Jane Austen, and he wrote a majority of the Federalist Papers defending the freshly-written Constitution. As the act one finale describes it:

Alexander joins forces with James Madison and John Jay to write a series of essays defending the new United States Constitution, entitled The Federalist Papers. The plan was to write a total of twenty-five essays, the work divided evenly among the three men. In the end, they wrote eighty-five essays, in the span of six months. John Jay got sick after writing five. James Madison wrote twenty-nine. Hamilton wrote the other fifty-one!

That is (175,000 words*(51/85 essays)) = 105000 words. In 6 months. Like the song goes on to ask,

How do you write like tomorrow won’t arrive?/How do you write like you need it to survive?/How do you write ev’ry second you’re alive?/Ev’ry second you’re alive? Ev’ry second you’re alive?

Ultimately, this is a show about stories and writing. Eliza, Hamilton's wife wants "to be part of the narrative" and later "erases" herself from it, burning her letters after Hamilton has an affair-and publishes an account of it. A running theme of the show, established in the first act is "you have no control/ who lives, who dies, who tells your story". Writing, and being unafraid of sharing his opinions, are Hamilton's greatest strengths. As Hamilton sings in his soliloquy,

I wrote my way out of hell/I wrote my way to revolution/I was louder than the crack in the bell/I wrote Eliza love letters until she fell/I wrote about The Constitution and defended it well/And in the face of ignorance and resistance/I wrote financial systems into existence/And when my prayers to God were met with indifference.I picked up a pen, I wrote my own deliverance


In the eye of a hurricane/There is quiet/For just a moment/A yellow sky...

That night, after processing the entire album in my mind, as I said my evening prayers, I cried. Not out of guilt or despair, but out of passion. I wanted to write. I wanted to write so hard, I literally cried myself to sleep. Remember when I said I found God's path for me? This is when. This is why. Thank you, "Hamilton."

And this is all before I even saw the show.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Student Life

Top 10 Reasons My School Rocks!

Why I Chose a Small School Over a Big University.

man in black long sleeve shirt and black pants walking on white concrete pathway

I was asked so many times why I wanted to go to a small school when a big university is so much better. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure a big university is great but I absolutely love going to a small school. I know that I miss out on big sporting events and having people actually know where it is. I can't even count how many times I've been asked where it is and I know they won't know so I just say "somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin." But, I get to know most people at my school and I know my professors very well. Not to mention, being able to walk to the other side of campus in 5 minutes at a casual walking pace. I am so happy I made the decision to go to school where I did. I love my school and these are just a few reasons why.

Keep Reading...Show less
Lots of people sat on the cinema wearing 3D glasses

Ever wonder what your friend meant when they started babbling about you taking their stapler? Or how whenever you ask your friend for a favor they respond with "As You Wish?" Are you looking for new and creative ways to insult your friends?

Well, look no further. Here is a list of 70 of the most quotable movies of all time. Here you will find answers to your questions along with a multitude of other things such as; new insults for your friends, interesting characters, fantastic story lines, and of course quotes to log into your mind for future use.

Keep Reading...Show less
New Year Resolutions

It's 2024! You drank champagne, you wore funny glasses, and you watched the ball drop as you sang the night away with your best friends and family. What comes next you may ask? Sadly you will have to return to the real world full of work and school and paying bills. "Ah! But I have my New Year's Resolutions!"- you may say. But most of them are 100% complete cliches that you won't hold on to. Here is a list of those things you hear all around the world.

Keep Reading...Show less

The Ultimate Birthday: Unveiling the Perfect Day to Celebrate!

Let's be real, the day your birthday falls on could really make or break it.

​different color birthday candles on a cake
Blacksburg Children's Museum

You heard it here first: birthdays in college are some of the best days of your four years. For one day annually, you get to forget about your identity as a stressed, broke, and overworked student, and take the time to celebrate. You can throw your responsibilities for a day, use your one skip in that class you hate, receive kind cards and gifts from loved ones and just enjoy yourself.

Keep Reading...Show less

Unleash Inspiration: 15 Relatable Disney Lyrics!

Leave it to Disney to write lyrics that kids of all ages can relate to.

The 15 most inspiring Disney songs

Disney songs are some of the most relatable and inspiring songs not only because of the lovable characters who sing them, but also because of their well-written song lyrics. While some lyrics make more sense with knowledge of the movie's story line that they were written for, other Disney lyrics are very relatable and inspiring for any listener.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments