What are the main points of chapter 1 of "Typhoon"?

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this opening chapter, Conrad lays out the exposition needed before the actual story gets underway.  We learn in Chapter 1 about the Captain, his calm and unreadable demeanor, his inability to get ruffled.

"CAPTAIN MACWHIRR, of the steamer Nan-Shan, had a physiognomy that, in the order of material appearances, was the exact counterpart of his mind: it presented no marked characteristics of firmness or stupidity; it had no pronounced characteristics whatever; it was simply ordinary, irresponsive, and unruffled."

We learn of his tumultuous relationship with his parents and his own devotion to the sea.  Then, we learn about the ship he is sailing, the Nan-Shan, and get a feel for what it is like to be on deck this trading ship:

"The coolies lounged, talked, smoked, or stared over the rail; some, drawing water over the side, sluiced each other; a few slept on hatches, while several small parties of six sat on their heels surrounding iron trays with plates of rice and tiny teacups; and every single Celestial of them was carrying with him all he had in the world."

Finally, we learn about the upcoming voyage of the Nan-Shan, and thus, the captain.  We learn that he is enroute to China, and we learn what that trip is likely to entail:

"The China seas north and south are narrow seas."

So, the point of the chapter is to provide all the background needed to understand the events that follow.

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