The pattern of a man's life and the women in it. The primary purpose is the tracing of the psychological and philosophical background of a man, investigating the emotional and sexual patterns, following the related incidents of his life. Riley's background -- a pool room and cigar store--cuts him off from the so-called respectable life of the community, and up to the war a youthful ""affair"" with one of the ""nice"" girls is his high romantic point. The war gives him -- he feels -- a new start; he proves himself a good fighter, he returns content to stay in the small town, but continued unfaithfulness breaks up his marriage and he drifts from woman to woman, each typifying a different phase of his maturity. In the last analysis, acknowledging himself a failure, he can still find none he considers a success. A man's book, primarily -- and definitely not for the puritan audience.