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A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness. The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth. (1.2)
Dark air; "Gravesend" and a "mournful gloom." Hm. Already, it sounds like this "greatest town on earth" (London) might not be as great as we want to think.
"Now letters went to the coast every week. . . . 'My dear sir,' he cried, 'I write from dictation.' I demanded rivets. There was a way – for an intelligent man." (1.68)
The brickmaker’s role as the manager’s puppet is furthered when we find out that he writes all the letters asking for supplies word-for-word (or by "dictation") from the manager. Not even his written words are his own – they originate from another’s mouth. Marlow insults his intelligence for being such a mindless automaton.
"There was nothing but that wretched, old, mangled steamboat I was leaning against, while he [the brickmaker] talked fluently about 'the necessity for every man to get on.' 'And when one comes out here, you conceive, it is not to gaze at the moon.' Mr. Kurtz was a 'universal genius,' but even a genius would find it easier to work with 'adequate tools – intelligent men.' He did not make bricks – why, there was a physical impossibility in the way – as I was well aware; and if he did secretarial work for the manager, it was because 'no sensible man rejects wantonly the confidence of his superiors.'" (1.67)
The brickmaker goes all over the place with his speech, flitting from random topic to random topic and trying to make each one sound profound. He does not even notice when Marlow stops listening to him.