"He looked like a harlequin. His clothes had been made of some stuff that was brown holland probably, but it was covered with patches all over, with bright patches, blue, red, and yellow—patches on the back, patches on the front, patches on the elbows, on the knees, coloured binding round his jacket, scarlet edging at the bottom of his trousers, and the sunshine made him look extremely gay and wonderfully neat withal because you could see how beautifully all this patching had been done."
Marlow’s association of the Russian Trader with a harlequin, a stock character from the 17th century commedia dell’arte movement, works to emphasize his role as Kurtz’s oblivious yet devoted follower and caretaker. The Harlequin character is a servant who, while loyal to his master, also has silly, trickster qualities. The Russian Trader often takes on these characteristics, nursing Kurtz back to health and listening intently to his various musings. Between his checkered attire and apparent naivety, Marlow does not take him particularly seriously, although he does tolerate him due to his thorough knowledge of Kurtz.
"The glamour of youth enveloped his parti-coloured rags, his destitution, his loneliness, the essential desolation of his futile wanderings. For months—for years, his life hadn't been worth a day's purchase—and there he was gallantly, thoughtlessly alive, to all appearance indestructible solely by the virtue of his few years and of his unreflecting audacity. I was seduced into something like admiration—like envy. Glamour urged him on, glamour kept him unscathed."
This passage highlights the Russian Trader’s youth and perseverance, qualities which Marlow admires as he finds himself struggling to make sense of all he has seen during his time on the Congo River. In this seemingly positive reflection, however, Marlow also alludes to the Russian Trader’s thoughtlessness and “unreflecting audacity,” qualities which carry a darker connotation. This lack of thought ultimately leads the Russian Trader to wholly devote himself to Kurtz which, if Kurtz is a symbol of colonialism’s darkness, emphasizes the danger of naivety. His thoughtlessness enables him to imagine “glamour” in places where it does not exist, making it possible for him to support Kurtz’s evil.
"If the absolutely pure, uncalculating, unpractical spirit of adventure had ever ruled a human being, it ruled this be-patched youth. I almost envied him the possession of this modest and clear flame…I did not envy him his devotion to Kurtz, though. He had not meditated over it. It came to him and he accepted it with a sort of eager fatalism."
At the beginning of Part 3, Marlow offers this observation of the Russian Trader, one which emphasizes just how willingly he commits to ways of life, ideas, and other people. Marlow suggests that the “unpractical spirit of adventure” rules the young man rather than it being something he actively pursues, and this power dynamic highlights the Russian Trader’s malleable character. Marlow perceives this trait as being particularly dangerous when it comes to the Russian Trader’s relationship with Kurtz, knowing that a belief in fate and inevitability can easily be taken advantage of.