Francie and Joe live the usual playful, fantasy filled childhoods of normal boys. However, with a violent, alcoholic father and a manic depressive, suicidal mother the pressure on Francie to grow up are immense. When his mother eventually commits suicide and Joe goes off to boarding school, Francie sinks ever deeper into paranoia directed mainly against Mrs. Nugent, a nasty neighbor, and fantasy where he has visions of the Virgin Mary. After his father dies Fancie's condition worsens, his behavior becomes more bizarre and erratic culminating in the extremely bloody murder of Mrs. Nugent whom he holds responsible for all the wrongs visited upon him. The authorities arrest Francie and commit him to an asylum in an attempt to cure him.