Dean Gollancz is an easygoing man of modest means. He longs for the Big Time, and when his job at the Print Shop doesn't pay the bills, he commits arson for a Chinese gangster in Los Angeles. His son Ray feels deep love and loyalty for his father, but when he wins an Ivy League scholarship, Ray must decide how much of his own life to sacrifice for Dean's respect. The destructive nature of their relationship is brought to the fore when Iris, a classmate of Ray's, becomes his father's lover. Longing for Iris and knowing he can never be like Dean, Ray must decide whether he even wants to be, and whether it is right to be that way at all.