(Great Characters in Literature)

Characters Discussed

Tom MacWhirr

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

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

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.)

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The means by which the adventure of MacWhirr and the Nan-Shan is narrated is the chief challenge of Conrad’s tale. The principal characters are themselves all storytellers of different sorts. MacWhirr writes his dutiful letters to a wife who fears and dreads them, as she does his return to her and their children. Only the steward has some notion of the purity of the events they describe. When he reads MacWhirr’s account of the storm, he is so reluctant to tear himself away from the letter that he is almost caught. Solomon Rout, in the habit of sending his wife and aged mother long and picturesque accounts of his travels, is curiously unable to lend romance to the events he has experienced. His wife is disappointed by the letters’ paucity of description. Solomon, the reader infers, has perhaps learned somewhat more from the adventure than the others, for the typhoon has brought forth in him a desire to be reunited with his family, as well as making him aware of his mortality. Jukes’s account, written to his friend in the western ocean trade, somewhat more animated than is usually the case in his correspondence, concludes that MacWhirr has gotten the Nan-Shan out of a difficult predicament and that he reconciled the claims of the Chinese workers fairly creditably “for such a stupid man.”

The overall narrator of the tale, who is privy to the correspondence of MacWhirr, Rout, and Jukes, for his part recounts the adventure in a...

(The entire section is 545 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

One of Conrad's most effective techniques in his description of the storm is to show how it is perceived by different members of the ship's...

(The entire section is 479 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Since there is a great interest in disaster stories and the motion picture Titanic (1997) has been a great commercial success, readers...

(The entire section is 453 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Typhoon, one of Joseph Conrad's most famous stories of the sea, is a narrative in which the interest is primarily focused on the...

(The entire section is 345 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Conrad's literary precedents for "Typhoon," as with most of his sea fiction, included the novels of Frederick Marryat and the sea fiction of...

(The entire section is 179 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

"Typhoon" is related to a number of Conrad's other tales that emphasize disasters and perils at sea, as well as the character of a particular...

(The entire section is 197 words.)