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Is it really an authentic discovery unless theres an epiphany? William Shakespeare who composed “The Tempest” and Joseph Conrad who composed “Heart Of Darkness” have conveyed how discoveries shaped by epiphanies can lead us too have emotional and intellectual change in values, ideas, understanding of our world and can have a transformative impact on an individual. 

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In the Tempest, Shakespeare uses complex characterisation of Caliban and Prospero and their conflicting master-slave relationship as a vehicle to express the theme of colonialism. Through the overpowering dialogue that Prospero displays towards Caliban when he first discovers the island, it is clear that he holds no value or respect for Caliban as he states that when he arrived on the island, it wasn’t “Honoured with a human shape”, which Caliban argues “this islands mine which thous’t taks’t from me” which fundamentally symbolises the relationship between the native inhabitants of which Caliban embodies and the European conquest which Shakepseare uses as an analogy to convey the illicit entitlements on inhabited lands made by the European colonisers after disavowing the “humanity” of the natives. Ultimately, through the complex characterisation of Caliban, Shakespeare creates an oft-ignored and subjugated character of whom embodies the world of colonisation, one of the many victims of colonial rule and exploitation caused by Prospero’s insolence and de-humanising values. However, Caliban also represents the force that strikes back on the coloniser, which is evident through his epiphany which symbolises his authentic discovery of his changed, renewed sense of self-value as he calls into question his contempt for Prospero by coming to understand the un-realistic world that he has been a slave too, by Prospero, which ultimately allows Caliban to have a renewed understanding of the world and his realisation of being able to curse at the coloniser “You taught me language, and my profit on ‘tIs I know how to curse”. Therefore Caliban uses at what first was Prospero’s gift to him, as a weapon to rebuke and curse Prospero and in-turn have changed values, ideas and understanding of the world.

Equivalently in the Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad uses the complex characterisation of Kurtz and Marlowe, as a vehicle to highlight how discoveries may occur due to a change in circumstances and can lead to a change in values, ideas and understanding of our world. Marlow initially approaches the opportunity with a pessimistic view of civilisation, yet a hope is retained once he establishes a belief that Kurtz shares his moral values about colonialism and the ethical treatment of others which is evident through the dialogue “Each station should be like a beacon on the road towards better things, a centre for trade of course, but also for humanising, improving, instructing”. However, this is initially challenged upon his first encounter with the natives, who he describes “They were nothing earthly now, nothing black shadows of disease.” The connotations of ‘black’, accompanied by the repetition of ‘nothing’, emphasise Marlowe’s horror upon being confronted with the epiphany that the heart of colonialism is not fuelled by the idea of civilisation, but rather then stemming from human greed, making it an authentic discovery. This is further reflected in Kurtz revelations prior to his death, as his discovery of his inhumane treatment of the natives results in great inner turmoil. His struggle is represented when he cries “Oh, but i will wring your heart yet!” at the “invisible wilderness”. The personification of the wild jungle illustrates Kurtz’s delusional struggle between succumbing to the innate desire to pursue power or to continue to retain his views and ideas of colonisation. Thus, it is evident that “Heart of Darkness” illustrates the notion that the discoveries made from exposure to different environments can potentially shape ones values and change their ideas and understanding of the world. 

The discovery of power can have an emotional and intellectual transformative impact on the life of an individual. Shakespeare represents this through the subversion of the traditional role of protagonists as an inherently good and sympathetic character, rather portraying Prospero as a man of ambiguous morality due to his obsession with the acquirement of knowledge. Written from the context of the Renaissance, in which the discovery of knowledge and enlightenment was valued above all, Shakespeare again challenges the values of his content in a way that has resonated throughout time. He portrays the relationship between knowledge and power as being inextricably linked, as Prospero’s discovery of knowledge and subsequently power through his magic books lead to both the downfall of his dukedom and the rise of his tyranny upon the island, as he becomes infatuated with control, lording it over the inhabitants of the island, such as Ariel which is evident through the dialogue “Dost thou forget/ From what a torment I did free thee?”. However, Shakespeare utilises dramatic irony to emphasise how Prospero’s own scheme forces himself to recognise the suffering he causes his usurpers, and his epiphany that his actions are immoral is evident through the rhetorical question in “shall not myself, as a human be kindlier moved than thou art?”. This epiphany forges his destiny and allows him to make an authentic self-discovery which ultimately has positive emotional impacts upon himself, as in the conventional restoration of order, Prospero recognises that for him, power is incompatible with a moral life and through the use of allusion Shakespeare utilises to signify the extent of Prospero’s valuation of his books, which are symbols of his magic and fundamentally elucidates the enormity of Prosperos self-discovery when he states at the conclusion of the play “Ill drown my book”. Furthermore, by casting off his magic it leads prospero to emotionally discover new and changed values of mercy, atonement and morality and thus new ideas stimulated about being virtuous and being a good leader. 

Comparably, Conrad explores a far darker side to power through his characterisation of Kurtz, a rogue ivory trader worshipped as a god by a tribe of native Africans. Kurtz, originally, was an eloquent, charismatic and ambitious man, a man of promise, but due to his insatiable lust for power he turns mad, a rambling, incoherent vicious madness that causes him to stick heads upon stakes. Conrad uses Kurtz as the paramount symbol of his personal belief in the depravity lurking behind civilisation, as he is the inherent core of the novel, the device that drives the plot forward and consumes the narrator’s thoughts as Marlowe moves further upriver to the ‘Heart of Darkness’ in search of him. The severed heads surrounding Kurtz’s house symbolise the savagery of his madness that his lust for power has brought to him: ‘These round knobs were not ornamental but symbolic’. This is reflected in the placement of the heads in a circle, facing inwards toward him like worshippers. Furthermore, As Kurtz spirals into death, he has an epiphany evident through the powerful dialogue ‘he cried out once, a cry that was no more than a breath, ‘the horror! The horror!’. The repetition of ‘the horror!’ serves to reinforce the barbarity and confronting nature of Kurtz final emotional and intellectual discovery. Therefore, alike Prospero, In Kurtz’s final moments he emerges from his power-driven madness to elucidate a final authentic discovery of self; of the depravity and his place in the power driven conquest of imperialism, which resulted in barbarous treatment of the native Africans.  

Therefore, through my own process of responding to The Tempest and Heart of Darkness it has shaped my understanding that discoveries are not authentic unless there is an epiphany and discoveries occur not only internally in the pages of a text or upon the stage of a play, but externally, leading the audience to renewed understandings of discovery. For myself, The tempest and Heart of Darkness have shaped my understanding that discoveries are multi-faceted to every individuals circumstance. Discoveries don’t always embody a conventional fairy-tale ending, they can encompass un-desired epiphanies which can ultimately change someones values, ideas and understandings of the world. Furthermore, both The Tempest and Heart of Darkness have shaped my understanding that emotional discoveries can impact an individual by stimulating change, growth and the acquirement of feelings, ideas and values that had formerly been buried.