check out our:
"I found nothing else to do but to offer him one of my good Swede's ship's biscuits I had in my pocket. The fingers closed slowly on it and held - there was no other movement and no other glance." (1.40)
Ship's biscuits: compressed cakes of flour and water. Yep, if we were dying that would definitely be the last food we'd want. Still, this little incident lets us see that Marlow is compassionate—or, at least, that he's able to take on the African perspective, just like Kurtz.
"When a truckle-bed with a sick man (some invalid agent from upcountry) was put in there, he exhibited a gentle annoyance. 'The groans of this sick person,' he said, 'distract my attention. And without that it's extremely difficult to guard against clerical errors in this climate.'" (1.45)
You could offer a dying slave some food—or you could get irritated because he's dying. Your pick.
[The accountant]: "What a frightful row," he said. He crossed the room gently to look at the sick man, and returning, said to me, "He does not hear." "What! Dead?" I asked, startled. "No, not yet," he answered, with great composure. Then alluding with a toss of the head to the tumult in the station-yard, "When one has got to make correct entries, one comes to hate those savages—hate them to the death." (1.47)
There's a weird contrast here between the accountant's "gentle" room crossing and his callous attitude towards the dying slaves. Is this another version of Conrad's binaries? Is there less difference between compassion and callousness than we think?