The not very palatable life of the Bittner family in a mid-Western town. Vince returns after an eight year escape to find his brothers and sisters still dominated by their father and Aunt Harriet, but most of all by cunningly sly Aunt Carrie, who still considers herself head of the family. He finds his love in Rhoda, desperate wife of his drunken, woman-chasing brother Frank, gives her the strength to decide to leave her husband; he tries to help his young brother Shelley, his sister Jo, but Carrie is too strong, and through her vicious gossip, grim misdirection of affairs, creates the tragedies that make an end to dreams. For she wrecks the possibility of Connie's marrying a Catholic, ruins Jo's chance to marry Fritz, blocks Celia's and Shelley's normal girl and boyhood, drives Frank back to Rhoda -- and tears the family apart. A picture of religious bigotry, unrelenting possessiveness and hypocritical innocence produces some dramatic, if contrived effects.