After serving on a number of Russian and English ships, the Russian Trader entered the African interior as a representative of a Dutch company. For two years he wandered the river alone, until he met Kurtz and became one of the man’s devoted followers. Before he came to Africa, the Russian Trader was already predisposed to the kind of grandiose philosophical musings he encountered in conversations with Kurtz. As he explains to Marlow, “when one is young one must see things, gather experience, ideas, enlarge the mind.” And this practice is precisely what Kurtz offered him: “I tell you, this man has enlarged my mind.” Marlow expresses his admiration for the Russian, if only because of the man’s sheer ability to survive in unfamiliar and dangerous territory. However, Marlow also criticizes the Russian for his unreflective devotion to Kurtz, one that he has accepted with “a sort of eager fatalism.” The Russian’s naïveté is most tangibly reflected in his youthful appearance and the brightly colored, patchy clothing that reminds Marlow of a harlequin, or jester-like character.
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