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"I was smoking my pipe quietly by my dismantled steamer, and saw them all cutting capers in the light, with their arms lifted high, when the stout man with moustaches came tearing down to the river, a tin pail in his hand, assured me that everybody was 'behaving splendidly, splendidly,' dipped about a quart of water and tore back again. I noticed there was a hole in the bottom of his pail." (1.55)
A man with a broken pail is trying to put out the fire: yep, we're thinking this is symbolic. He's the only one who seems to care about the fire, but—in the context of this scene—trying to put it out seems insane.
"It was as unreal as everything else - as the philanthropic pretence of the whole concern, as their talk, as their government, as their show of work. The only real feeling was a desire to get appointed to a trading-post where ivory was to be had, so that they could earn percentages. They intrigued and slandered and hated each other only on that account—but as to effectually lifting a little finger - oh, no." (1.56)
Marlow is appalled by these pilgrims' depth of corruption. It seems utterly "unreal" to him that men could be so hypocritical. The unifying trait between them seems to be greed. (Nice words coming from someone who's heading to the Interior for profit himself.)
"No, I don't like work. I had rather laze about and think of all the fine things that can be done. I don't like work - no man does - but I like what is in the work - the chance to find yourself. Your own reality - for yourself, not for others - what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means." (1.68)
Marlow like to work because he can find his own version of reality in it. Nobody else, he claims, can see what a worker sees when he does his duty and claims the work as his own. Another can only see the external—the least true—account of reality. Um, if Marlow really is seeing different versions of reality, we're not sure that he's totally sane at this point.