Themes and Meanings
“Typhoon” is remarkable primarily for the immediacy with which the storm, in its elemental and objective fury, is dramatized. It is experience so intensely and forcefully narrated that its reality is felt as it is read. The tale is adventure so brilliantly accommodated by language that one becomes oblivious of the very words that communicate the experience.
The story is, furthermore, a perfect combination of the literal and the symbolic. As he confronts the storm, MacWhirr sees beyond the vault of the sky, past the stars into a vast and lonely cosmos beyond. He defines humanity’s protest against nature as he finds in himself the determination to confront and conquer the facts of creation. The several references to the loneliness of command, to the privileges and burdens of authority, suggest, in addition, a simple but provocative allegory: A human being confronts the self through a task provided by the subconscious as a means of determining the capacity to be. The ship can be seen, in an equally viable reading, as a microcosm, MacWhirr as a god-figure on whom all depends, and his shortcomings as an index of the limitations of a godhead who has lost or never had control of his creation. Solomon Rout, in the bowels of the ship, can then be read as that aspect of the psyche on which the intelligence depends for power and drive. Jukes, who discovers his place within the human community, as Everyman, who, in doing his work under the eye and encouragement of the god figure, succeeds in discovering his courage and verifying his humanity; the boatswain as one who does not fail in matters of trust; and the second mate as one who fails in responsibility and succumbs, as a result, to fear and terror.