Mae lives with Lloyd whom her father brought home as an abandoned child and raised with Mae. Mae and Lloyd live in considerable rural poverty but Mae attends literacy classes and is committed to learning to read, and to becoming numerate. Whilst Lloyd takes care of their pig, Betsy, Mae works hard cleaning, cooking, and ironing. She attempts to deal with Lloyd's ill health and invites an older man, Henry, to read to them a health pamphlet. She then invites him to join them for a modest meal and when Henry recites grace Mae is deeply affected. Her mind's hunger for knowledge and self-improvement accelerates. Henry moves in to complete the trio, replacing Lloyd in Mae’s bed, but when an accident disables Henry, Mae feels that both men are holding her back. She leaves them, but is pursued by a desperate Lloyd who shoots her and carries her back on stage. A dying Mae speaks of the light she has died to pursue.