I find it quite interesting how you can have two different musical songs about the exact same thing and yet are strongly different from each other. The songs, “On My Own”, and “I’m Not That Girl” are two songs about unrequited love. “On My Own” is from Les Mis and is about Eponine’s unrequited love for Marius and “I’m Not That Girl” is from Wicked and is about Elphaba’s unrequited love for Fiyero. I see incredible differences between them in terms of strength and emotion. I see differences and similarities between the two different girls.
One way I know how different they are from each other is understanding the differences between Eponine and Elphaba during these two parts of the show itself. Both of these girls get caught in the middle of a love triangle and both live in broken families and they both are considered outcasts. They also are both quite young. The thing that makes the girls different is the lives they live. The differences in the characters is what makes one of the songs sadder then the other.
Elphaba is treated like an outcast in her family and society. Despite that, she still manages to find a friend in Glinda and love in Fiyero. I find it interesting how Glinda and Fiyero both fall in love with the same guy because the two girls are best friends. “I’m Not That Girl” is a song that happens in the first act and not much has happened to Elphaba at this point in the musical. You still have not gotten the full scope of who Elphaba is. In the previous scene, Elphaba accidentally cast a spell during class and it didn’t affect Fiyero. The two ran away with a scared lion cub to release it into the wild. Fiyero wanted Elphaba to say why her spell didn’t affect him, but she couldn’t even get herself to say that she loves him. She doesn’t even know if she is deserving of his love because she is green. I believe that Fiyero has fallen in love with Elphaba at this point, but I don’t think he even realizes it until the beginning of act two. “I’m Not That Girl” is a song dealing with heartbreak, loneliness, love, and sadness.
But Eponine’s life is worse and darker compared to Elphaba’s. The thing you have to understand about Eponine is that her parents, the Thenardiers, are very abusive, selfish, cruel and greedy. She was raised by them and they taught her how to be a criminal, which means she was always around dark people in her life. She has never seen a source of light or good or even felt loved growing up. Her family falls into extreme poverty after Valjean adopted Cosette. When she meets Marius for the first time, he changed her life because she learned to love and due to her love for Marius, she was able to not develop the wicked ways of her parents.
The love she had for Marius ended up being unrequited, but the sad truth is Marius was the only light in her life. The song “On My Own” happens in the second act and by that point, you have already gotten to know Eponine and her heartbreaking situation because enough time has passed between the time you saw her as a child and the time “On My Own” is sung. In the stage show, it happens in the second act and at this moment, Marius still doesn’t know that she loves him. Eponine already has risked her life several times to make sure that Marius is happy. She helped find Cosette for him and prevented her father and his gang from robbing Valjean’s house. Eponine has decided to dress up as a boy to join Marius at the barricades and Marius notices her and sends her off to deliver a letter to Cosette. “On My Own” happens immediately after she delivers the letter. “On My Own” has heartbreak, loneliness, sad, and love in it, but is capable of anger as well.
Because Eponine is the sadder character and due to her unrequited love being deeper, it makes “On My Own” the sadder of the two songs. Due to the emotional differences of “I’m Not That Girl” and “On My Own”, that shows that even heartbreak can be a layered emotion. Each song is full of incredible insight, honesty, and truth and both are beautiful songs as well. Both Elphaba and Eponine are strong and complex characters and are two of the most memorable characters in musical theatre.