57 pages 1 hour read

Joseph Conrad

An Outpost Of Progress

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1897

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Symbols & Motifs

The Jungle

The jungle wilderness all around the outpost symbolizes a beautiful, terrifying world of paradox and moral relativism where the traditional markers of Western civilization—right and wrong, good and bad—are as hopelessly entangled as the thick vines that Kayerts orders cut back only to find, just a week later, the growth has returned thicker and stronger.

The jungle, which surrounds and eventually closes in on both Belgians, is in a way less a place and more a character, not so much the antagonist as the character designed to teach, perhaps a difficult lesson but one that needs to be learned if not by the obtuse Belgians than by the reader. The longer the two men remain at the outpost, the more the wilderness presses down upon them and, in the process, renders most of the unexamined assumptions they have long maintained about civilization and culture as irrelevant. Put a person in a church, and they will seem religious. Put a person at a family dinner table, and they will seem domestic. Put a person in a classroom, and they will seem educated. Put them in a jungle, and they become, well, less human.