The Brickmaker, whom Marlow meets at the Central Station, is a largely trivial character in the world of the novella, yet for Conrad’s purposes, his lack of a true function at the station has a significant thematic impact. As his name suggests, the Brickmaker’s primary responsibility is to make bricks for the Company. In the absence of any kind of brick-making materials, however, he does no manual labor whatsoever. This disparity between the Brickmaker’s title and his function mirrors the broader contradiction between the Company’s stated goals and their actual behavior in Africa. Marlow sees this as yet another sign of the futility of the happenings at the Central Station. With no real work to do, the Brickmaker spends a significant amount of time talking to Marlow about Europe, trying to pry information from him in a manner that allows him to fulfill his reputation as the Manager’s spy. This insistent pursuit of insider knowledge emphasizes the Brickmaker’s desire to force his way up the ranks of the company until he becomes one of its central figures, a quality which mimics the greed inherent in both the ivory trade and imperialism more generally.
While the Brickmaker’s behavior and dialogue work to present him as a rather useless but power-hungry man, Conrad also attempts to reinforce this character by appealing to 19th century antisemitic tropes. The primary physical description that Marlow offers of the Brickmaker is that he has “a forked little beard and a hooked nose.” The hooked nose was a prominent Jewish stereotype during Conrad’s time, along with the false assumption that Jews were greedy and had an unfair level of influence in public life. Conrad alludes to this association with greed when Marlow sees the Brickmaker’s “little eyes [glitter] like mica discs” upon gaining information about the Company’s workings in Europe. Marlow’s later description of the Brickmaker as a “papier-mâché Mephistopheles,” or demon figure, reinforces his evil, morally bankrupt nature but inevitably exacerbates the antisemitic sentiment as well. Much like Conrad’s racist descriptions of the Africans, these Jewish stereotypes add to one of the central tensions surrounding the novella as a whole: it simultaneously denounces Europe’s colonial presence in Africa while upholding the same, problematic world views used to justify forms of oppression in the first place.