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"Good heavens! and I was going to take charge of a twopenny-half-penny river-steamboat with a penny whistle attached! It appeared, however, I was also one of the Workers, with a capital – you know. Something like an emissary of light, something like a lower sort of apostle. There had been a lot of such rot let loose in print and talk just about that time, and the excellent woman [Marlow’s aunt], living right in the rush of all that humbug, got carried off her feet. She talked about ‘weaning those ignorant millions from their horrid ways,’ till, upon my word, she made me quite uncomfortable." (1.28)
Marlow’s aunt considers Marlow some altruistic "emissary of light" that brings knowledge to "those ignorant millions." But Marlow is quick to discredit it, calling such goals "rot" and "humbug." We understand that Marlow is not going to Africa out of the goodness of his heart, but rather to explore and help the Company profit. Marlow’s aunt thinks Marlow more noble than he actually is, a notion strangely similar to Kurtz’s fiancée at the end of the text.
"Now and then a boat from the shore gave one a momentary contact with reality. It was paddled by black fellows. You could see from afar the white of their eyeballs glistening. They shouted, sang; their bodies streamed with perspiration; they had faces like grotesque masks – these chaps; but they had bone, muscle, a wild vitality, an intense energy of movement, that was as natural and true as the surf along their coast. They wanted no excuse for being there. They were a great comfort to look at." (1.30)
Marlow describes the black native Africans as "natural and true," absolutely invigorating in their "wild vitality." They seem happy just to live and, to Marlow, who feels stuck in a dream, they are refreshingly real to look at, providing him with a great deal of comfort.
[At the Outer Station]: "A continuous noise of the rapids above hovered over this scene of inhabited devastation. A lot of people, mostly black and naked, moved about like ants. A jetty projected into the river. A blinding sunlight drowned all this at times in a sudden recrudescence of glare." (1.34)
Here, light does not reveal the truth but repeatedly "drown[s]" the true horror of the "inhabited devastation" in a "recrudescence of glare."