At sixteen, the attractively rounded Mary Burton, daughter of an upwardly mobile hosier and his strictly Presbyterian wife, is married to Lemuel Gulliver, a charmless physician. Seeing their union as an opportunity to improve herself, Mary is swiftly disabused by her husband, who regards intellectual curiosity in a woman as shameful and, moreover, any intimations of sexual desire abhorrent. Disappointed but undeterred, Mary rallies to the task of the dutiful wife.. When her husband returns deranged from his now infamous travels only to abscond again for the South Seas, Mary feels it incubment upon her to pursue him. Thus she embarks on a extraordinary adventue in which, untimately, duty is pitted against desier.