57 pages 1 hour read

Joseph Conrad

An Outpost Of Progress

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1897

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Character Analysis


Kayerts enters the story as an overweight, mild-mannered but officious nobody, happy to be gifted with a thankless low-echelon job in an isolated outpost, an appointment for which he is eminently unqualified. Back in Belgium, he had served for a time as an administrator in the government telegraph offices, and as he tells the Director of the outpost company, he “knew how to express himself correctly” (Part 1, Paragraph 1). The logic is of course specious, like a librarian claiming that job ipso facto makes them a great writer. He is the most dangerous kind of fool: one completely unaware of how foolish he is.

This sort of pretense is at the core of Kayerts’s character. For him, the appointment at the outpost is his chance to represent Belgium, to be a sort of paragon of civilized manners and cultured living. Exposed to an unfamiliar world where his sense of civilization is deeply compromised, and where he must fall back on his own minimal resources to maintain focus within a vast and oppressive jungle wilderness, Kayerts summarily experiences mental health issues and gives into the feral nature his upbringing had convinced him was irrelevant to who he was.