"Fresleven—that was the fellow's name, Dane—thought himself wronged somehow in the bargain, so he went ashore and started to hammer the chief of the village with a stick. Oh, it didn't surprise me in the least to hear this and at the same time to be told that Fresleven was the gentlest, quietest creature that ever walked on two legs."

Marlow tells the story of his predecessor’s fate as he prepares to sign the contract for his new job with the Company. The apparent disconnect between Fresleven’s violent behavior in Africa and his peaceful demeanor among his European coworkers symbolizes the broader contradictions that exist within the sphere of colonial influence. Despite the honorable justifications that imperialists offer, their actual behavior is far more evil. Notions of gentleness or kindness become a façade to hide the violent truth of the European’s presence on the continent.

"When near the buildings I met a white man in such an unexpected elegance of get-up that in the first moment I took him for a sort of vision. I saw a high, starched collar, white cuffs, a light alpaca jacket, snowy trousers, a clean necktie, and varnished boots. No hat. Hair parted, brushed, oiled, under a green-lined parasol held in his big white hand."

Upon Marlow’s arrival at the Outer Station, he spies this out-of-place man and learns that he is the Company’s Chief Accountant. This image of the Chief Accountant dressed in a formal, light colored, and seemingly cold-weather outfit while in African emphasizes the absurdity of his, and therefore Europe’s, presence there. His appearance is completely at odds with the nature of his environment, a contrast which also suggests an unwillingness to adapt to or learn from his exposure to unfamiliar territory. 

"Well, don’t you see, he had done something, he had steered; for months I had him at my back—a help—an instrument. It was a kind of partnership…And the intimate profundity of that look he gave me when he received his hurt remains to this day in my memory—like a claim of distant kinship affirmed in a supreme moment."

Marlow offers this lament after his helmsman dies in the wake of an arrow attack on their steamer. The simultaneously humanizing and dehumanizing language that he uses here, which appears prominently in many of his descriptions of the Africans, emphasizes the contradictory nature of his perspective and his unreliability as a narrator. While Marlow does seem to be grateful for the helmsman, his attempt at humanizing him through a reference to “kinship” fails because of his initial use of the objectifying word “instrument.” The inconsistent language he uses to describe the “partnership” he feels with the helmsman ensures that it remains unequal, thus reinforcing the colonial power dynamic.