57 pages 1 hour read

Joseph Conrad

An Outpost Of Progress

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1897

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Important Quotes

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“There was only one large building in the cleared ground of the station. It was built neatly of reeds, with a verandah on all four sides. There were three rooms in it.”

(Part 1, Paragraph 1)

At the center of Conrad’s harsh critique of European pretense and affectation is the outpost itself. Despite the grand name of the company behind the outpost and despite the idea that here is a starting point for gifting the entire continent of Africa with progress, the actual outpost is hardly up to that sense of importance. This disparity creates the irony that will ultimately reveal the preposterous masquerade of Western imperialism.

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“Few men realize that their life, the very essence of their character, their capabilities and their audacities, are only the expression of their belief in the safety of their surroundings.”

(Part 1, Paragraph 5)

When the narrator intervenes in the story of Kayerts and Carlier, it is to interject this sort of insight. Be careful, he warns the reader, from a moral and ethical perspective, people are little more than chameleons. The narrator suggests that a person is only as moral and as ethical as their culture. This foreshadows the revelations later in the story about how easily the civilized Christians from Belgium so entirely and completely surrender to the jungle with its distinct sense of right and wrong.