The lecture for this topic discusses the effects of world exploration in terms of commerce, colonialism, and slavery. How do you see this exploration affecting expressions of identity in the texts you were assigned for this unit? Select at least one text and discuss how identity is expressed and how that identity is related to exploration.

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While I do not know which texts you were assigned in your course, Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness, published in 1899, demonstrates the effects of exploration, especially in terms of colonialism, on identity.

In this book, the main character, Marlow, has returned to England and speaks about his time in Africa. In the process, he reflects not only on his travels in Africa but also on himself. He had traveled to Africa as a stereotypical colonialist, being keen to explore, whilst feeling superior to the African natives. However, his time in Africa has changed Marlow’s view of himself and therefore his identity. In Africa, Marlow witnessed the dark aspects of colonialism, such as torture and exploitation. As a result, he increasingly began to not only question colonialism and imperialism, but also himself. He doubts his own views of what is right and what is wrong, of what defines civilization, and what defines wilderness. As a result, his sense of identity begins to change considerably—a clear effect of exploration.

Another example of how exploration can have an impact on identity is the character of Kurtz. Kurtz is described as mad. This is very likely a result of having been away from home for too long. Being able to lead a lifestyle of power and authority in the colonies seems to have gone to Kurtz’s head. His life now seems extremely surreal and would be impossible to lead back in England; originally an ordinary ivory trader, Kurtz managed to transform himself into a godlike figure to be worshiped by the natives during his time in Africa. One could therefore also argue that Kurtz is an example of the negative effects of exploration on identity: his view of his own identity changed considerably and eventually led to his spiral into madness.

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