What groups are meant by these lines from "Outpost of Progress"? "And now, released from the fostering care of men with pens behind the ears, or of men with gold lace on the...

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Conrad is referencing some stereotypes of Western society in this line.  The "men with pens behind the ears" alludes to both intellectuals, who spend their life studying and believe, often mistakenly, that they know the human condition and its problems; as well as romantics, the poets who sympathetically connect with the emotions of humanity and often arrogantly assume that they know what others are experiencing.

The "men with gold lace" are the pursuers of materialism and wealth, the imperialistic type, who ignore the human condition and human frailty in their monomaniacal and seflish pursuit of success.


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