On an island in the South Pacific during World War II, Nellie is a nurse from Arkansas. She falls in love with an older French planter, Emile. When she learns that the mother of his children was an island native, she is unable to forget the prejudices with which she was raised and refuses Emile's proposal of marriage. Meanwhile, Lt. Joe Cable denies himself the fulfillment of a future with an innocent Tonkinese girl with whom he's fallen in love out of the same fears that haunt Nellie. When Emile is recruited to accompany Joe on a dangerous mission that claims Joe's life, Nellie realizes that life is too short not to seize her own chance for happiness, thus confronting and conquering her prejudices.