Captain MacWhirr sees life on a literal rather than a symbolic level. His speech is direct and lacks the embellishment and metaphor of Mr. Jukes. In responding to a comment that Jukes makes regarding the Siamese flag (one that references the flag symbolizing the role of the Asian country in international relations), MacWhirr responds to the physical characteristics of the flag rather than what it represents. MacWhirr treats text as another symbolic medium that he dismisses: in reading a book that cautions against sailing into the storm, MacWhirr ignores the advice and instead drives his ship into the typhoon.
MacWhirr's lack of imagination, however, also enables him to maintain his calm during the storm and craft a reasonable solution to the confusion over the Chinese passengers' money. His attention to facts prevents him from letting his imagination run wild and instead allows him to focus on the concrete situation that he is dealing with.