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John Sims has believed since childhood that he would become somebody important. However, John's father, who had hoped to provide his son with many opportunities for success, died young, changing John's fortunes and forcing him into the working crowd. By age twenty-one, John is an anonymous clerk in the gigantic Atlas Insurance Co. in New York. Bert, one of his co-workers, arranges a blind date for John with Mary, a friend of Bert's girlfriend. After spending a pleasant evening at the Coney Island amusement park with Mary, John asks her to marry him. She agrees and they honeymoon at Niagara Falls. Although John has promised Mary an opulent home "when his ship comes in," they move into a very modest apartment adjacent to the El tracks. On Christmas Eve, Mary's deaf mother and her two prosperous brothers Jim and Dick, who are antagonistic towards John, visit them for dinner. When John goes to Bert's to pick up some liquor, he finds a party in progress and returns home drunk, long after his guests have left. Mary forgives him, but by April they are squabbling about problems with the apartment and about her appearance. However, all that is forgotten when Mary tells John that she is expecting a baby. In October, when a baby boy is born, John tells Mary that this is the impetus he has needed to make him try harder and promises to become "somebody." Five years pass and a baby girl is added to the family. In the interim, John has received only a modest increase in pay and it is clear that he has not distinguished himself from the others in the "crowd". Mary tells him that she does not believe that his "ship" is ever going to arrive. John, who has a hobby of devising advertising slogans, enters a contest and wins five hundred dollars. When John returns home laden with presents for Mary and the children, who are playing across the street, he and Mary call them to come to see their new toys. As the children head home, the little girl is hit by a truck and subsequently dies. John and Mary are grief-stricken and although Mary recovers from the loss, John does not. Unable to concentrate on his job, he breaks down and quits on the eve of the company's boat ride and picnic without telling Mary. At the company picnic, Mary asks Bert, who is now in a managerial position, to help John advance in the organization. John is then forced to admit that he has quit his job. Mary comforts him by telling him that there are many better jobs, but John encounters only disenchantment and rejection in looking for employment, forcing Mary to take on work as a dressmaker. After John dismisses a job offer from Mary's brothers as charity, Mary calls him a bluffer and a quitter and slaps him. Later, after considering suicide, John's spirits are raised by his little son and he lands a steady job as a juggling, sandwich-board man promoting a restaurant, a job he had scoffed at on his first date with Mary. When he returns home, he finds Mary leaving to live with her brothers. Believing that his luck has turned, John has brought her a small bouquet and tickets for a vaudeville theater that evening and is able to convince her not to leave him. John, Mary and their son attend the show and are delighted to see that John's advertising slogan is featured in the theater's printed program. Finally feeling at one with the "crowd," John and Mary laugh heartily at a comic acrobat act and look forward to a brighter future.