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Heart of Darkness

by Joseph Conrad

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Why does Marlow describe the accountant as a miracle?

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When Marlow arrives at the Company's Outer Station, he is appalled by the despicable conditions and disorganization of the entire operation. Marlow witnesses decaying machinery, inefficient work practices, and famished Native laborers, who have been worked to death and are slowly dying in the African brush. After witnessing the horrific conditions of the Outer Station, he is introduced to the chief accountant. Marlow describes the chief accountant as a white man with "unexpected elegance." The chief accountant is wearing an immaculate, clean outfit, which includes a light alpaca jacket, spotless snowy trousers, a clean necktie, and varnished boots. The chief accountant also has his hair brushed and oiled and is perceived as a quintessential gentleman. Marlow proceeds to refer to the chief accountant as a miracle because of his extraordinary, fashionable appearance, which contrasts greatly with the decay and despair surrounding him. Essentially, Marlow does not expect to see a man dressed to perfection in the African bush. Marlow also mentions that he respects the chief accountant for keeping up his appearance and goes on to say,

"His appearance was certainly that of a hairdresser’s dummy; but in the great demoralization of the land he kept up his appearance" (Conrad, 27).

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Because of his appearance. In a place where people are starving to death, the accountant is dressed so smartly that he seems a picture of "elegance." The contrast seems almost impossible.

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