In the Final chapters of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, we are getting down to the final days of Hamilton’s life and he reflects on the dread of having Aaron Burr as government, and how he has failed to stop the revolution and rise in power, which he has been destined to do his whole life since he moved to New York City. This leads to a duel that Hamilton proposes to Burr, because he wants to change the face of the future, and he does not want to throw away his shot at taking this opportunity. But does he throw away his one-shot for the better or the worse?
In A Despicable Opinion, after Aaron Burr gets elected to government, Burr’s private dinner on State Street triggered a chain of events that led inexorably to Hamilton’s duel with Burr. Present at Tayler’s table was Dr. Charles D. Cooper, a physician who had married Tayler’s adopted daughter. Contemptuous of Burr, Cooper was delighted to sit back and listen to two of New York’s most illustrious Federalists, Hamilton, and James Kent, denounce him bluntly at the table. So exhilarated was Cooper by this virulent talk that on April 12 he dashed off an account to his friend Andrew Brown, telling him that Hamilton had spoken of Burr “as a dangerous man and one who ought not to be trusted.” (Chernow, 680). In this passage, Chernow expresses a great sign of Ethos, stating that Burr was ‘exhilarated’ and that Hamilton cannot be trusted after what he said about Burr’s decisions, that a spark rises and discussion has to be made about whether Hamilton can be trusted in taking action within the community.
Later in the chapter, Chernow states that Hamilton “has indulged himself in illiberal freedoms with [his] character. He had a peculiar talent of saying things improperly and offensive in such a manner as could not well be taken off” (Chernow, 681). In this rhetorical strategy, Chernow uses a symbolic approach, stating that in Hamilton’s past life when first moving to New York City and finding his inner self within the political developments, clearly voiced his opinions throughout the story, without realizing what he is leading to and how society will react to his views and eventually turn against him in the revolution. Later in this chapter, after the duel is settled and compromised, Chernow uses another form of Ethos, showing a great form of sorrow and empathy for Hamilton, saying that “In Hamilton’s final years he was seriously depressed by personal and political setbacks, and his judgment was often spectacularly faulty” (Chernow, 690).
Once again, Chernow uses a form of symbolism and reflection, as Hamilton realizes this is the one-shot he has been waiting for since he moved to New York, and that he will not give away his shspokespoked of the future greatness of the city” (Chernow, 700). This shows a great lack of pathos, showing that Hamilton was showing no emotion leading up to the duel with Burr, and rather that he was excited about what was to come with the city, that he is very confident that he will not waste his shot at changing history as a whole. In contrast, the song shows a very different approach to both pathos and ethos, where Hamilton is terrified of what is about to come dives deep into symbolism of what this one-shot truly means, and takes a different path of emotions, which results in his action when the duel happens.
In the song, Miranda (Hamilton) says “If I throw away my shot, is this how you’ll remember me? What if this bullet is my legacy?” (The World Was Wide Enough). This line questions a different approach to symbolism. Throughout the book, Hamilton believes that this one-stone shot mistakes will change the course of history for the better, when in contrast Hamilton is scared about how this shot will affect his life and the rest of society in one shot and takes a rather negative approach that will change his the outcome. Burr also takes a different approach; after he shoots Hamilton and realizes that Hamilton intended to shoot up into the sky, he realizes that he did the wrong thing, saying “It paints me all my mistakesto when Alexander aimed at the sky, he may have been the first one to die, but I’m the one who paid for it… Now I’m the villain in your story, I was too young and blind to see…” (The World Was Wide Enough). Burr seems to have a great amount of sorrow, showing that he made the wrong mistake for the better, but even though he survived, the shot that killed Hamilton will change the course of history for the worse.
In the end, it is hard to say whether Hamilton threw away his shot to be the hero in the story. On one side, you could say that he realized what his one-shot truly meant in the course of his life and that his beliefs were changed in the course of his life, or that he did not want to be the villain in the story and that decision decided his final move. Both Ron Chernow and Lin-Manuel Miranda take a pathos approach to tetellingmistakesll the story, but contrast and use different types of emotions, where Chernow uses a lot more emotion and sympathy in the story and Miranda uses less and more sorrow when explaining the course of events.
- Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. Penguin Books, 2005.
- Miranda, Lin-Miranda. The World Was Wide Enough. Hamilton, 2016.