Tom MacWhirr, the captain of the steamer Nan-Shan. Dutiful, calculating, mechanical, mature, and effectual, the main character of the story does his job correctly although he does so without any manifest confidence from the men serving under him. His job is to take two hundred Chinese coolies to their destination of Fu-Chau and to do so directly and without delay. The obstacle to this plan is the typhoon, presenting MacWhirr with the central dilemma of the novella as he must decide whether to proceed straight into the hurricane or run from it. This latter choice would be a relinquishment of duty, which he cannot accept. In confronting the typhoon and surviving it, MacWhirr somehow comes to terms with all of life’s adverse universal forces.
The typhoon, a hurricane that Captain MacWhirr must confront. Violent, strong, forceful, and controlling, the typhoon represents not only the power of nature but also all the adverse conditions that humanity must face and struggle against. The typhoon does not succeed in destroying the Nan-Shan and the men on board; however, it does not surrender the battle to MacWhirr so much as it simply ceases to struggle.
Young Jukes, the chief mate. Innocent and inexperienced in the evils of life and the violence of nature, Jukes rightfully depends on Captain MacWhirr...
(The entire section is 571 words.)