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"You know I hate, detest, and can't bear a lie, not because I am straighter than the rest of us, but simply because it appalls me. There is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies - which is exactly what I hate and detest in the world - what I want to forget. It makes me miserable and sick, like biting something rotten would do. Temperament, I suppose. Well, I went near enough to it by letting the young fool there believe anything he liked to imagine as to my influence in Europe. I became in an instant as much of a pretence as the rest of the bewitched pilgrims." (1.61)
Marlow gives us a taste of his morals. He hates lies, not because they are false, but because he associates them with death and decay. However, he comes as close to lying as he can by allowing the brickmaker to believe him quite influential in Europe. Thus, he must feel himself somehow tainted by death. Indeed, he knows he has become "as much of a pretence as the rest of the bewitched pilgrims" for he has sinned and allowed himself to lie.
"This devoted band called itself the Eldorado Exploring Expedition, and I believe they were sworn to secrecy. Their talk, however, was the talk of sordid buccaneers: it was reckless without hardihood, greedy without audacity, and cruel without courage; there was not an atom of foresight or of serious intention in the whole batch of them, and they did not seem aware these things are wanted for the work of the world. To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land was their desire, with no more moral purpose at the back of it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe." (1.72)
The Eldorado Exploring Expedition is evil embodied. Their sole intention is to rob and rape the earth of its treasures purely for profit, with not even the pretense of moral justification.
"The other explained that it [the ivory] had come with a fleet of canoes in charge of an English half-caste clerk Kurtz had with him; that Kurtz had apparently intended to return himself, the station being by that time bare of goods and stores, but after coming three hundred miles, had suddenly decided to go back, which he started to do alone in a small dugout with four paddlers, leaving the half-caste to continue down the river with the ivory. The two fellows there seemed astounded at anybody attempting such a thing. They were at a loss for an adequate motive. As to me, I seemed to see Kurtz for the first time. It was a distinct glimpse: the dug-out, four paddling savages, and the lone white man turning his back suddenly on the headquarters, on relief, on thoughts of home – perhaps; setting his face towards the depths of the wilderness, towards his empty and desolate station. Perhaps he was just simply a fine fellow who stuck to his work for its own sake." (2.2)
The image of Kurtz here is one of moral ambiguity. One could read his turning back and returning to the interior as a sign of courage – usually a positive trait. This is how Marlow reads it. It could, however, also be read more pessimistically. Kurtz could be going back for more ivory, out of an incorrigible and insatiable greed for wealth. Conrad allows both such readings at this stage of the game.