This parable explores the clash between cool western civilization and the warmth of the tropical east.
Wealthy young Dan Pritchard (Leslie Howard) again asks Maisie (Karen Morley) to marry him, and for the "hundredth time" she says yes but refuses to say when. Dan is called down to a ship, where he meets a captain with leprosy and Tamea (Conchita Montenegro), his daughter by a native queen. The captain asks Dan to see that his daughter is educated and well married; then he leaves and apparently drowns himself. Tamea likes Dan's house but not the older servants she calls ugly. She will obey Dan but only after she gives him a passionate kiss. Tamea is jealous of Maisie and sings and dances for Dan, kissing him at every opportunity. Dan's father (C. Aubrey Smith) is afraid that she will change Dan. At a party Dan's friend points out that Dan is white and she is not. When Maisie says that too, Tamea leaves the party, followed by Dan. She wants to go back but is happy that Dan loves her. Maisie comes to tell Dan that she, who has been described as a refrigerator, wishes she were more like Tamea. Dan's father tells him that he has sent Tamea back on a ship. Dan gets angry and goes after her.
Dan is living in Tamea's house on her island. He obviously dislikes the raw fish, the breadfruit, and the constant heat. He asks Tamea about her friend Tolongo, whom she says is like his Maisie. Dan does not like the way he dances; so Tamea dances with Dan. In town Dan drinks with the cynical white man Porter, who notes a snake in this paradise - promiscuity. Seeing Tamea bathing with Tolongo, Dan drinks and then jealously hits Tolongo, telling him to get out and stay out. Dan is drinking again, as Porter tells him that Dan will not leave the island as he intends. Dan has caught a fish that signifies his woman is with another man. Tamea notices the fish and says that their custom is not wrong there. She tells Dan to whip her but not to hate her. He whips her a couple of times and then stops in shame and self-disgust; she kisses him tenderly. Dan and Porter, drinking, watch the monthly ship leave. Maisie has arrived and finds Dan, wanting to take him back. Dan says that he is not made of marble and that Tamea is warm and alive; but when Tamea becomes jealous, he throws her out of her house. Maisie tells Dan she loves him; but he says he is not fit for her. Dan becomes indifferent to Tamea and leaves on the boat with Maisie, taking Porter. As the boat goes, Tamea runs off to play with Tolongo.
This story plays out the fantasy of a white man being involved with a sexy native woman. Dan seems to have given up passion and become indifferent like Maisie, because he prefers western civilization.