In Joseph Conrad's novel Typhoon, which characters are influenced by the titular Typhoon?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Joseph Conrad's Typhoon is a novel partially drawn from Conrad's own experiences as a sailing hand on various ships.

The two main characters, Captain MacWhirr and chief mate Jukes, are both drastically affected by the typhoon. Each is pushed to the limits of their respective abilities and then forced to face fear and discover personal determination. In a way, they are influenced together, as neither would have survived the storm without the other.

MacWhirr is too stubborn to change course as the typhoon approaches, believing that nature cannot overcome Man. However, the sheer power of the storm -- as well as MacWhirr's perception that he is losing control of his ship -- creates doubt in his mind, perhaps the first doubt he has ever experienced.

[The barometer] was the lowest reading he had ever seen in his life ... the feeling of dismay reached the very seat of his composure. And the worst was to come yet!

This is pivotal in his development. MacWhirr believes Man to be the superior force in the universe, and with a simple storm, the universe has upended his entire worldview.

For his part, Jukes errs on the side of caution, wanting to steer around the typhoon and not believing that Man can overcome nature, either through willpower or skill. However, when MacWhirr is in the depths of his uncertainty, Jukes finds within himself -- without being prompted -- the willpower to take control of the ship and prepare it for the worst of the storm.

"I didn't . . . think you cared to . . . know," said Jukes [...] "how I got on with . . . that infernal job. We did it. And it may not matter in the end."
(Conrad, Typhoon,

Jukes, while unsure of survival, knows that his job -- his stated purpose on the ship -- is more important than his own fears, and when seemingly abandoned by MacWhirr takes initiative and secures the ship. Then, together, MacWhirr and Jukes ride out the storm, each having found their limits and yet knowing that the other serves to fill in the gaps.

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