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"A narrow and deserted street in deep shadow, high houses, innumerable windows with venetian blinds, a dead silence, grass sprouting right and left, immense double doors standing ponderously ajar. I slipped through one of these cracks, went up a swept and ungarnished staircase, as arid as a desert, and opened the first door I came to." (1.23)
This is a rather unflattering view of civilization as Marlow knows it. The depiction of the Company’s office in Brussels highlights its narrowness, its filth, its tense silence, and its conspicuous lack of people.
"I had a cup of tea – the last decent cup of tea for many days – and in a room that most soothingly looked just as you would expect a lady's drawing-room to look, we had a long quiet chat by the fireside." (1.27)
This is what Marlow associates English civilization with – good food, familiar architecture, and idle refined talks in a cozy house. It is this type of soft life and familiarity that he will miss when he goes into the wilderness.
"After this I got embraced, told to wear flannel, be sure to write often, and so on - and I left." (1.29)
To some extent, Marlow also associates civilization with trivialities like wearing flannel or writing letters. The wilderness he encounters later concerns itself with much more primal and profound ideas.