The Guizacs, a family fleeing Poland sometime during or just after World War II, arrive at the farm of Mrs. McIntyre, a widow. Also living on the farm are her employees, a white family by the name of Shortley, a young black man named Sulk, and an older black man called Astor. Father Flynn, a Catholic priest, accompanies the Guizacs to the farm.
Mr. Guizac proves to be a talented and hardworking man and Mrs. McIntyre is pleased with him. The other workers, especially Mrs. Shortley, fear that Mr. Guizac will render them useless and they will lose their jobs. Later, she overhears Mrs. McIntyre planning to fire her. Mrs. Shortley and her family pack their belongings and leave the farm.
Mrs. McIntyre learns that Sulk is engaged to be married to Mr. Guizac's sixteen-year-old cousin, who is trapped in a Polish detention camp. Mrs. McIntyre is furious and unleashes her anger on Mr. Guizac, explaining that his white cousin can't marry her black employee. She tells him she'll fire him if he takes it any further. He tries to explain that the marriage might be the girl's only chance to live, but she doesn't care. After this Mrs. McIntyre can't shake her dislike for Mr. Guizac.
Mrs. McIntyre tries to get the Father Flynn's permission to fire Mr. Guizac, and the priest starts avoiding her in order to avoid the subject. Mr. Shortley shows back up at the farm alone. He tells Mrs. McIntyre that Mrs. Shortley has died of a stroke. He blames Mr. Guizac and vows revenge. Mrs. McIntyre promises to fire Mr. Guizac but can't. Mr. Shortley complains to the townspeople about her failure and they pressure her into action. Mrs. McIntyre goes to fire Mr. Guizac one Saturday morning. He is working beneath a tractor, with his legs sticking out. Sulk is nearby.
Mr. Shortley parks the larger tractor on a hill. The break slips. The tractor starts to roll. Nobody warns Mr. Guizac and the tractor snaps his spine, killing him. Sulk and Mr. Shortley leave the farm. Mrs. McIntyre has a nervous collapse and then steadily declines until she is blind, speechless, and bedridden. Visitors are rare, but the priest comes over once a week and talks to her about the Catholic religion.