Themes

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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 552

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Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton tells the biography of Hamilton’s life from his birth in the West Indies to his death in New Jersey nearly 50 years later. As with any biography, the book contains themes that echo those that dictate a person’s life. As a founding father, Hamilton’s life contains themes that vary from very personal to wildly public.

Coming of Age: Hamilton barely knew his father, and he was orphaned at a young age. He moved from home to home as he struggled to both find himself and survive. Hamilton had to fight for everything he got in life, and through those struggles he learned who he was and what he was willing to do to succeed.

Overcoming the Odds: Hamilton nearly died as a preteen, and his mother did not survive the same illness. He was born poor and worked incredibly hard to get the money he needed to come to New York. When Princeton wouldn’t allow him to enroll, he found a college that would. He overcame the odds, stacked against him, to become not only successful, but happy.

Parental Guidance: Hamilton was orphaned as a preteen and looked to male role models over the years for guidance. He found a few during his youth, but it was his relationship with George Washington that most resembled a father-figure. Washington protected Hamilton during the war and continued to teach him lessons as Hamilton served in his administration.

Love: Hamilton met, fell in love with, and ultimately married Elizabeth Schuyler and their love story was admired by her sisters and most people they knew. It wasn’t always perfect, but Eliza stood by Hamilton and stood up for him long after his death.

Political Power: Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury to serve the USA and he dealt with many hurdles all too common in modern politics, but new to the founding fathers. He fought with the other cabinet members to determine what amendments might be added to the Constitution, how to manage the finances of the country, and where the US capital would be located. In a deal that was controversial even at the time, Jefferson and Hamilton agreed that the banks would be in New York, Hamilton’s hometown, while the capital would be situated in Virginia, near Jefferson’s home. They wielded their power for their own interests rather than those of the country.

Infidelity: Hamilton famously cheated on Eliza with Maria Reynolds, after which his political future was called into question. Eliza and her sisters, with whom Hamilton had been close, were livid and he nearly lost his marriage along with this political standing.

Bribery: When Reynold’s husband learned of the infidelity, he bribed Hamilton to keep it a secret. Hamilton did pay Reynolds, but ultimately wrote “The Reynold’s Pamphlet” to reveal his affair, and the bribery, rather than continue to be beholden to Reynold’s desires.

Death: Death is a common theme throughout the book, as it is throughout many people’s lives. Hamilton’s mother died when he was young, he lost countless friends to war, his eldest son was killed during a duel, and Hamilton himself ultimately died, before the age of 50 of injuries sustained during a duel in the same place his son had died.

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