Generation and culture gaps bedevil the lives of seven people seeking love and happiness in a 1950s post-war climate of political disarray and mutual suspicion enveloping the city of Paris. Hal Evans, Assistant Principal of the American High School, would say that they were victims of The Big Lie, a basic insight on life he conceived as the rebellious son of a Baptist preacher. Hal is trying to work out his own feelings as he searches for a Yugoslavian refugee girl named Zizi, once his lover at the time of the Liberation of Paris. He is certain that she is somewhere in the city. High School Principal Bill Helmer, Hal's boss, battles to defend the integrity of a liberal education in a school supported by a military bureaucracy and to win the love of a French teacher, Colette Bernard, who appeals to his emotions while ruthlessly challenging his American ideas about the education of young people. Colette's former lover Jean Ramuel, psychologist and active Communist, discovers that she has returned from her year of teaching in England where she had fled to escape their liaison. He enters the picture to join the competing interests around this spirited French woman. Students Tony Mosca and Kay Selner agonize over what to do about her unexpected pregnancy amidst fears of her domineering father, an army chaplain, and, during the final semester of their senior year, their own lack of financial support in a foreign country. Bill struggles to maintain control of academic programs in perpetual disagreement with U.S. Army Captain Michael Murphy, the School Officer, who longs for order and discipline in a neat school where he is responsible for support services. He feels obliged to protect the children from what he sees as French political radicalism. As France recovers from the agony of Nazi control during World War II the Americans are welcomed by some as liberators and considered by others to be an occupation force, posting "Americans Go Home" signs throughout Paris.