Back to the sustained narration of Rock Wagram (1951), the story here is of faith and love uprooted, of loneliness and pride. Stanford professor Evan Nazarenus takes his wife, Swan, and their two children, Red and Eva, for a stay at his brother Dade's place in Clovis, California, and there, when he learns of her infidelity and her pregnancy by another man, is ready at first to kill everyone off. But Swan's appeals for trust and love, the responsibility to the children, Dade's tolerant, loving guidance, help him to hope for the future. Swan is aborted and dies, and is proved to have taken an overdose of sleeping pills: Dade's death comes from a shooting: Swan's love suicides and Evan is killed in a motor accident. The ending of beautiful things, the prescience of the children, a wanton, wrecking violence in the search for self-knowledge, the pitch of emotionalism are combined in a tempestuous tragedy that is often telling.