The play follows the lives of a family of settlers in the Appalachian Mountains. Father has found a plot of land which pleases him greatly, despite the fact that it is on a mountain slope and not in the more fertile farming land of the valley. Mother complains, but is devoted to her husband. Daughter is willing to wait and see what comes. As the family sets up their new home, a neighbor, Brother 1, enters. He is a hard working, ever struggling to get ahead man, unlike Brother 2, who likes to take it easy. A Boy lives nearby and tries to woo Daughter, who comes to love him, yet thinks he is too wild and needs to mature. She will wait, but Boy must grow up. Brother 1 comes back several times with new business proposals each time. First to buy Father's timber, then to buy the mineral rights. Father continues to refuse all offers, but Brother 2 comes in happily each time to report on what a great deal he has gotten from selling portions of his farm to Brother 1. In reality, however, Brother 2 is being driven of his land and is headed for disaster. Boy is slowly maturing. He has fought in the Civil War and seen a great deal of human nature, and Daughter is warming to him. Finally Brother 1 comes back looking to buy the land itself. He is part of a corporation now that is looking to build a mountain resort, and they want to buy the land, or, he threatens, they will take Father to court with a trumped-up claim of having an earlier deed to the land. Father is caught. He does not want to give up the land but is afraid of losing everything to this corporation. The family turns to the audience for help. The play ends with the actors introducing themselves to the audience and saying that they can do nothing to help this family. "Who will help?" they ask.
An allegory for the history of America, Linney takes us on a journey into the lives of a family, whose members are known only as Father, Mother and Daughter. They experience two hundred years of changing times and American history, constantly struggling to hold onto their land and their dignity in the face of great evil and temptation.