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"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)
Conrad finally says straight out that the men are hypocrites. They pretend that their mission is to philanthropically help the black Africans, but they exploit them instead. They want to make money for their governments, but even here, they won't lift a finger to do an hour of honest work.
[Marlow on Kurtz's painting]: "Then I noticed a small sketch in oils, on a panel, representing a woman, draped and blind-folded, carrying a lighted torch. The background was somber—almost black. The movement of the woman was stately, and the effect of the torchlight on the face was sinister." (1.57)
Kurtz's painting starts out with some pretty conventional symbols: Liberty (symbolized by the torch) and Justice (symbolized by the blindfold). But Kurtz has put his own special twist on it: the background is black, and the torchlight is "sinister." Hmm. Looks like liberty and justice aren't as straightforward as they seem.
[The brickmaker]: "'He [Kurtz] is an emissary of pity and science and progress, and devil knows what else. We want,' he began to declaim suddenly, 'for the guidance of the cause intrusted to us by Europe, so to speak, higher intelligence, wide sympathies, a singleness of purpose.'" (1.59)
The brickmaker presents Kurtz to Marlow as a do-gooder, something of a missionary as well as a Company agent, who wants to bring all the 'civilized' European qualities like "pity and science and progress" to Africa. Um, this would be a lot more believable if the brickmaker weren't obviously corrupt.