In a rural area of the Deep South, the action begins with the arrival of a young lawyer who has just tried, and lost, his first case. His client killed a young man who wanted to run off with his daughter; when they young man drew a gun, the girl's father killed him. To most of the jurors the killing was clearly justified, but one man, Jackson Fentry, voted against acquittal, hanging the jury. Convinced that the reason for Fentry's action must lie outside the immediate facts of the case, the lawyer comes to talk to the Fentry's neighbors, and the story they tell him becomes the continuing action of the play. It turns out that Fentry happened upon a young woman in her eighth month of pregnancy as, in a sickly and weakened state, she left home where her father and brothers disowned her and her husband left her. Fentry cares for her and is with her when she gives birth to a baby boy. He marries her just before she dies, and promises to raise the boy as his own. Knowing the girl's kin might one day find out about the boy and claim him, Fentry never lets the boy leave his side. When the boy turns three, however, the brothers of the young girl find Jackson and forcibly take the boy away. Heartbroken, Jackson leaves his family farm without a word, leaving his father to work it alone, for ten years. When Jackson returns, he hears word of the boy, now going under a different name and with a reputation of recklessness and indifference, the opposite of how Jackson tried to raise him. One day, he even observes the boy in town and sees a wild, selfish young man who no longer recognizes his first father. Even so, when the boy is killed by the girl's father, Jackson, still believing the little boy he raised was deep inside, does not acquit the man who killed him.