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In the small town of South Renford, Alice Adams, the pretty daughter of Virgil Adams, an invalid clerk, is escorted by her brother Walter to an elegant party that is being hosted by Mildred Palmer, a local debutante. Dressed in a two-year-old gown and carrying a bouquet of wilted violets, Alice, who dreams of social acceptance, is snubbed by the Palmers and their guests until Arthur Russell, Mildred's cousin, asks her to dance. Although entranced by the handsome Arthur, Alice shyly refuses a second dance and asks him to find Walter, who is playing dice with the servants in the cloak room. A humiliated Alice returns home and, after a brave smile for her mother, cries bitterly in her room. Later, however, Alice runs into Arthur in town and walks with him to her house. Embarrassed by the house's shabby appearance, Alice discourages an eager Arthur from coming inside but agrees to receive him for an evening visit. After two nights of anxious waiting, Alice finally finds Arthur at her door and chats with him on the porch. As Alice's mother listens by the window, Arthur showers Alice with sincere compliments and asks her to a party that the daughter of Virgil's employer, J. A. Lamb, is planning. Furious that Alice was not invited by the Lambs, Mrs. Adams later rails against Virgil for his lack of career ambition, which she contends has ruined Alice's chances at "catching" Arthur. Overwhelmed by his wife's arguments, Virgil gives in and, backed by a formula for glue that he had invented years before while working for Lamb, opens his own glue works. Arthur, meanwhile, continues to romance Alice and happily accepts an invitation to a family dinner. Just before the dinner, Arthur hears from Mildred's father that Lamb has accused Virgil of stealing the glue formula and is planning to open a rival factory. In spite of a surly maid, bad food and her father's social awkwardness, Alice maintains an overly cheerful facade for Arthur throughout the "formal" dinner. When Walter, who has been caught stealing from Lamb's company, shows up, however, the evening falls apart, and Alice says goodbye to Arthur, sure that she will never see him again. Lamb then arrives and accuses Virgil of stealing the glue formula. After Virgil yells at his former boss that he is a "mean man," Alice takes Lamb aside and explains to him that her father opened the factory only to help her. Touched by Alice's words, Lamb offers to join Virgil in his venture, and hostilities are put aside. Alice then steps out on the porch and finds Arthur waiting for her with open, loving arms.