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"At last we opened a reach. A rocky cliff appeared, mounds of turned-up earth by the shore, houses on a hill, others with iron roofs, amongst a waste of excavations, or hanging to the declivity. A continuous noise of the rapids above hovered over this scene of inhabited devastation. A lot of people, mostly black and naked, moved about like ants. A jetty projected into the river. A blinding sunlight drowned all this at times in a sudden recrudescence of glare. 'There's your Company's station,' said the Swede, pointing to three wooden barrack-like structures on the rocky slope." (1.34)
We hope Marlow wasn't expecting much, because the Company station looks pretty pathetic: three wooden barrack-like structures. Nice. Do you think they have high-speed wireless?
"I came upon a boiler wallowing in the grass, then found a path leading up the hill. It turned aside for the boulders, and also for an undersized railway-truck lying there on its back with its wheels in the air. One was off. The thing looked as dead as the carcass of some animal. I came upon more pieces of decaying machinery, a stack of rusty rails. To the left a clump of trees made a shady spot, where dark things seemed to stir feebly." (1.35)
The creepiest part about all this nature is how it turns even manmade objects into extensions of itself, like the railway-truck resembling the carcass of some dead animal. Is Conrad suggesting that there really isn't much distinction between the natural world and the human world? Or that the natural world is more powerful?
"Yes; I respected his collars, his vast cuffs, his brushed hair. His appearance was certainly that of a hairdresser's dummy; but in the great demoralization of the land he kept up his appearance. That's backbone. His starched collars and got-up shirt-fronts were achievements of character." (1.43)
This is sort of like putting on your party clothes to go camping: silly at best, and downright dangerous at worst. Either way, you end up looking like a dummy—a "hairdresser's dummy," in this case. Marlow sarcastically claims that the accountant's "starched collars and got-up shirt-fronts" are "achievements of character" when, in actuality, they mean quite the opposite to him.