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"He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination - you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate." (1.11)
This is a lot of fancy words to describe a simple and familiar human emotion: not being able to look away from something disgusting but fascinating. Like the comments on a YouTube video.
[Marlow]: "Mind, none of us would feel exactly like this. What saves us is efficiency—the devotion to efficiency. But these chaps were not much account, really. They were no colonists; their administration was merely a squeeze, and nothing more, I suspect. They were conquerors, and for that you want only brute force—nothing to boast of, when you have it, since your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others. They grabbed what they could get for the sake of what was to be got. It was just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale, and men going at it blind—as is very proper for those who tackle a darkness. The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it's the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea." (1.13)
Marlow says that "strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others." In other words, he totally undermines any sense that these Western explorers are noble or motivated by emotions other than greed: they're just glorified robbers. Shh, don't tell Ayn Rand.
Flames glided in the river, small green flames, red flames, white flames, pursuing, overtaking, joining, crossing each other—then separating slowly or hastily. The traffic of the great city went on in the deepening night upon the sleepless river. (1.14)
Hmmm. The river is dark, but it's reflecting little flames. Light in darkness—this is sounding pretty familiar by now. But not just any kind of light: green, red, and white light. This sounds a little hellish, doesn't it?