A. Character Development
This song illustrates a major turning point in the lives of the Schuyler sisters (mostly Angelica and Eliza) and Alexander Hamilton. A simple encounter occurs at a Winter’s ball between, Alexander Hamilton, an ambitious man looking for revolution, and Elizabeth Schuyler, one of the famous sisters of the family known for being wealthy and rich.
Before the introduction of this song, Eliza Hamilton’s persona and individual character is out-shadowed to Angelica’s leading role in “The Schuyler Sisters”. “Helpless” is an entire song dedicated to Eliza’s feelings, emotions, and her personality, letting us have a surface-level understanding of where she starts in the story.
The Schuyler sisters are out at a winter’s ball when Eliza sees Alexander walk in and falls in love at first sight. Using her sister, Angelica as a bridge and getting them together, Eliza and Hamilton instantly get closer and exchange their love through verbal affection (“If it took a war for us to meet it would’ve been worth it.”…..), love letters and pursuing marriage in less than a month of first interaction.
The stereotypical “love is blind” is shown clearly. She is a young heart in deep love at first sight, swooning uncontrollably.
While this is all happening Eliza continuously mentions her helplessness and her feeling of being so deep in love that she feels she cannot focus on anything else. Eliza does not seem to be a sister that is independent but she seems to be more relying on her feelings and her gut. She doesn’t care that Hamilton’s reason for being attracted to her in the beginning was because she was a Schuyler, a rich family that’ll essentially boost his social status. Of course in the end they both loved each other very much, but the lyrics of this song gives me a sense that Eliza is a pure, yet naive individual that can be greatly impacted by emotions rather than sense.
Literally, the first sentence in the song is “Oooh! I do I do I do I dooo!”. Wedding vows, before he even looked at her for the first time.
Throughout the song, everything is so Utopian. Love and more love, exchanged affection, a blessing for Hamilton’s fresh start in New York, Eliza’s continued helplessness even after marriage etc…
This Motif of helplessness is repeated throughout the story. It is used in “Say no to this”, Hamilton and Maria both expressing their helplessness. But here, Maria’s helplessness only drains Hamilton whereas Eliza’s motivates him to move and fulfill her heart in return for her love.
In “Burn”, we cannot see any trace of that helplessness any longer. She does not say “Helpless” even once. She is angry and there is no trace of the Eliza we see in “Helpless”. She takes initiative of the situation and expresses her rage without and mercy. The song is quite violent as well.
Character development in this song alone is scarce. But in terms of the entire story, I can see that her impulsive emotionally driven self hasn’t changed, but I learned that she’s not always a lovesick girl who’ll abide to whatever Hamilton says. That she can stand up for herself and express effectively.
B. Connections to Historical Elements
“While the women continue to rep the flirtatious atmosphere from the song’s transition, Eliza opens with what one says at one’s wedding, which happens to be the trajectory of this whirlwind romance of a song.”
The rushed personality of Eliza Schuyler isn’t the only reason the couple got wedded in such a short period of time (2 weeks!!).
Historically, these people were all in the middle of a war. It was not uncommon for people to rush around searching for a partner to proceed with their life as fast as they can. The couples would rush onto the alter before one of them gets shipped off to duty, serving the country.
This song illustrates the meeting of Eliza and Hamilton was lead by Angelica because Eliza was too shy.
Historically I’d like to argue that this may not be entirely correct.
In the 18th century, it would’ve been “improper” for a single woman to speak to a man without having been introduced first by a third party, so we should take Angelica’s direct approach to Hamilton as somewhat scandalous in this play. But in reality, Angelica was already a wedded woman to John Church, so it would’ve been completely necessary and even expected of Angelica to directly introduce herself and then Eliza to Hamilton.
There is a part in the song where Angelica expresses wanting to form a harem with Hamilton and Eliza.
Historically it is a well-known fact that Hamilton and Angelica had a very flirtatious relationship. In modern terms I guess they had a “thing” even after marriage until the Angelica turned her back on him as soon as she learned that he broke her sister’s heart.
C. Thematic and Personal Connections
I’d love to try and attempt to connect to this song.
Sadly, I don’t think I’ve ever been in this much of an intense infatuation. But I can somewhat connect to the emotion of helplessness: whenever you’re infatuated, it’s a distraction from a lot of things. Tunnel vision, you can’t see anything but them.
In the second half of the song, Hamilton goes on about with his flaws and the things that he lacks in comparison to Eliza. He’s painfully aware that he’s a poor man marrying into a wealthy family.
Although it’s not exactly marriage, I can sometimes feel that way with general social relationships. As if I am not good enough to be with a certain person, the guilt of “leeching” off of another person, and the self-deprecation that I bring myself when I meet a person I and other people think are superior compared to me. Nonetheless, those people are so kind and are accepting towards me to the extent that I almost feel bad.
1. Ohh, I do I do I do I
Dooo! Hey! Ohh, I do I do I do I Dooo!
This is the first line of the song. Eliza hasn’t even met Hamilton yet, but she’s chanting marriage vows. I feel that this reflects on her rush to find a partner, get married and have fun with love. It reminded me a lot of princess Anna in Frozen. Back then, rushed marriages and wanting stand on the altar as soon as possible wasn’t uncommon. After all, they were in the middle of the war. Getting married before they get called out for duty was a desirable idea. Not to mention, women were expected to stay virgin until marriage, so as adult humans with instinct to reproduce, they wanted to get married. Quickly.
I feel as if this line reflects on Eliza’s personality. She seems to be driven by emotion quite easily. She seems like a buckish person.
2. Helpless! Look into your eyes and the sky’s the limit I’m helpless! Down for the count and I’m drowning in em!
This is the key phrase that shapes this entire song. Eliza’s deep love, her helplessness and the classic “Your eyes are beautiful”. History says that Hamilton had somewhat violet-blue eyes that were outstandingly beautiful and worthy of noting. But the reason this is a dominant idea is because this line shapes the song and the song is based around the feeling of helplessness.
3. I’ve been livin’ without a family since I was a child
My father left, my mother died, I grew up buckwild
But I’ll never forget my mother’s face, that was real
As long as I’m alive I swear Eliza you’ll never feel so helpless
I’ve looked enough into Eliza’s crazy love for Hamilton, but this line proves that Hamilton returns the love just as much in the end. Hamilton rarely ever talks about this family and refuses to talk about it if anyone tries to bring it up, as it is quite a painful past for him; you can see this in the lines of the next song “satisfied”.
A truly vulnerable, private yet open moment he shares with Eliza and only Eliza, symbolizing his love for her, his trust, and a promise that he’ll never let her go through what he had to as a child.
After all, this is a love song. It symbolizes and helps the audience understand that Hamilton does have a soft side after all of the hard, ambition he demonstrated with his leadership and his desire for war. Personally I think it’s a really nice, light break in the heavy topic of revolution, the idea of love.