A fervent, first person testament records the tumescent soulsickness of David Hyatt, from undergraduate days at Oberlin to the present when he finds the answer to his restless search. An orphan, Dave takes a certain refuge in Beatrice- in her soft sympathy and her humility- and he marries her when she follows him from the midwest to California. A job in Washington as an analyst heightens his discontent- with himself- with the world-and with the sacrificial Beatrice, and enlistment in the Marines is a welcome release. The end of the war takes him back to Beatrice and Washington, but the old discontent prevails and he breaks with both and heads for Europe. London brings an affair with Norah (a whore- a pregnant one at that) and when she disappears, he realizes that ""the image of a love and a security"" is only to be found in himself.... A lesson learned, the hard way and the long way round, the confusion of the ideal and the instinctual, this is all verbalized with few controls and few refinements.