When Mary Catherine, the only child of old-fashioned parents, becomes a teacher in a ghetto school, she and her family will never be the same. New ideas and new relationships lead to trouble at home as well as on the job. Since the year is 1953, her struggle to adapt to change plays out against a daily barrage of headlines about a Soviet H-bomb and the long reach of Senator Joseph McCarthy's Red witch hunt. The two colleagues who offer support each prove to be threat to her peace of mind. The discovery of her father's double life and the demands of her own increasing sexuality finally drive her to a painful decision.