It is early autumn of 1916 at the Gant boarding house and 17 year old Eugene Gant is about to leave the home that has become a prison for his family. His father seeks sanctuary in drink and trying to carve the winged grace of an angel in stone. His mother devotes herself to the boarding house and its meager rewards. His tubercular brother is doomed, and his sister is a drudge.
After a brief affair with a pretty boarder, Eugene rushes toward a brighter future.