Twenty-year-old Will Porter doesn't want his parents to get divorced, even though his newborn brother may not be his father's. But when he seeks to keep his mother and father together, he's thrown out of the house and disinherited. His college education cut short, Will strikes out on his own, traveling through various towns of the South during the 1890s before heading west to seek his fortune. A member of one of the more prominent families of historic Virginia, Will trades on his gentlemanly Southern manners and his sense of entitlement to carve out a living and start a family of his own. But even with his pedigree, he turns egalitarian and populist as the Great Depression takes its toll. He begins to write poetry in his older years-satirical, muckraking diatribes that target those with economic power and political influence. Yet in the face of his past hardships, Will maintains a deep sense of optimism symbolic of a generation that confronted a rapidly changing America.