The action passes in a lighthouse on Lake Michigan. Charleston, the keeper, has taken a job there to flee from a detestable world. Opposing Charleston's pessimism, Streeter, his friend, says he is giving up his job to become an active member of society again. Streeter believes our world can be brought out of its chaos if people do something about it. Filled with this determination, he leaves to become an aviator. Charleston retreats further into a fantastic world of his own building. The people of this world are half a dozen of the sixty who were shipwrecked ninety years ago. Believing that "Mankind's got one future-in the past," Charleston breathes life into these creatures of his imagination. They live again on the stage. As he talks to them we see passengers as they really were, each seeking sanctuary from a disturbed Europe, running away from life, yet needing the same hope and strength as Charleston himself. Charleston's sincerity convinces these creatures that he really has the courage to lead his fellowmen into a better world, and in this faith they are content to die again. Inspired by their confidence, the lighthouse-keeper returns to useful work, determined to create a new order out of the chaos of the old.