Adapted from Edna Ferber’s novel and longer than the 1932 film So Big, a school teacher marries a farmer, works hard, and encourages people to be creative; but her son is captivated by the modern pursuit of wealth.
Selina (Jane Wyman) learns that her father died, and she remembers him encouraging her to do things on her own. She goes to his farm outside of Chicago. Maartje Pool (Ruth Swanson) welcomes her, and she meets their two little girls and the boy Roelf Pool (Richard Beymer). Selina loans him three books.
Selina teaches school and stops a fight. Roelf plays piano. Women bring box suppers to the church auction, and Selina meets Pervis DeJong (Sterling Hayden). Widow Paarlenberg (Dorothy Cristy) wants Pervis to bid on her large basket, but he does not. Selina’s box is small, but Pervis gets it for $8. Roelf only had $3.57 to bid, and Selina consoles him. As they eat, Pervis tells Selina he needs to improve his arithmetic for his business.
Selina tutors Pervis in arithmetic while Roelf jealously distracts them. Roelf offers Selina a ride to school, and he says that Pervis is sick. Selina says she would never marry a truck farmer. In the evening she visits Pervis and starts a lesson, but he kisses her.
Maartje lets Selina wear her wedding dress and admits she was scared. Roelf is upset, and Selina explains that she loves Pervis and him in different ways.
Pervis carries Selina into his house, and they dance. He wakes her before dawn to work on the farm. They both work hard at different things. He picks her up on the road and says he got little at the haymarket, but she cannot go there. Selina has a baby, and he calls him Dirk. She calls him “So Big.”
Selina is working in the field and watching Dirk when Pervis and Roelf come and tell him that Maartje died. A couple years later Roelf tells Selina he is going away.
Dirk grows and walks home from school in the rain. Selina sees that Pervis has a fever, and she sends Dirk for a doctor. She sees that Pervis has died and cries. She puts a second ring on her finger.
Rev. Decker offers to drive Selina to the haymarket, but she says she will go alone. People are aghast, and she says she is going to Baghdad. She gets a place and says Dirk is her man. They sleep in the wagon. She tries to sell vegetables, but men do not buy from a woman. She takes her wagon to a residential neighborhood where she grew up. They go door to door. A policeman asks her for a license and is about to arrest her, but Julie Hempel (Elisabeth Fraser) intervenes. August Hempel (Jacques Aubuchon) offers them a ride in his motorcar to her farm. Selina says she can get a bank loan now and will grow asparagus.
Dirk (Steve Forrest) earns a university degree in architecture and gets a job drafting. Paula Hempel (Martha Hyer) calls Dirk and invites him to dinner with Mr. Hollis, who tells Mr. Hempel that the new way is selling by suggestion. Paula calls Dirk a failure because she wants quick results. Dirk visits his mother and tells her he is working for Hollis selling and is making more money. She advises him not to deny his self-expression. She visits his successful office, and he says he coordinates advertising. She is not fond of Paula and her crowd. She says she is having lunch at the Drake where DeJong asparagus is on the menu.
Dirk finds Dallas O’Mara (Nancy Olson) painting. She wants to go to Paris and may not do his mural. He asks her out. Selina attends a symphony by Roelf Pool in Chicago, and Paula sees Dirk with Dallas. In his office jealous Paula confronts Dirk. Dallas comes in, and Paula exits with a parting insult. Dirk wants Paula to marry him, but she says he has no scars. Dirk finds Roelf Pool (Walter Coy) with Dallas in her studio. They go to the farm to see Selina. She runs in from the field, and Roelf runs to hug her. Dallas tells Dirk that Selina is wonderful. Roelf plays the piano. Dallas tells Dirk that she would like to paint Selina someday after she goes to Paris. Dirk tells his mother that he was too stupid to see beauty. She says beauty is a spirit that can be anywhere and everywhere. He agrees and dances with her.
This life drama portrays a strong and sensitive woman who works hard and follows her own personal dream. Her son is still young when he learns the value of one’s own creativity as opposed to the alluring prizes of competitive business.