The title of this work, which was actually Conrad's first novel, stands as a symbol for colonialism and the various psychologies surrounding the colonial project. "Almayer's Folly" is the name given to the elaborate and ornate building that Almayer begins to build when it looks likely that the British will take control of Sambir. In the end of course the British takeover comes to naught and Almayer abandons the building. It is literally a "folly" in that it is a vast building that serves no practical purpose, but it is also symbolic of the "folly" of Almayer as he approaches colonialism. The novel shows that he continually concerns himself with imperial powers far from Sambir. His "folly" is that he ignores and is blind to the domestic politics of Sambir. It is this oversight that is his undoing, particularly concerning his relationship with Lakambah, the rajah of Samir, who is inexorably opposed to Almayer. Almayer represents the failings of colonialism, which centred around the belief of natural supremacy of the white men, which blinds them to their own ignorance and lack of knowledge. Note how this is expressed in the following quote:
The well-known shrill voice startled Almayer from his dream of splendid future into the unpleasant realities of the present hour. An unpleasant voice too. He had heard it for many years, and with every year he liked it less. No matter; there would be an end to all this soon.
Almayer spends his time dreaming of possible futures, and as a result ignores the pressing needs of the present. He thinks he can change the future and mould Sambir the way he wants to, only to find that his ignorance of the present results in his undoing.