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After registering for the draft, folk singer Arlo enrolls at Rocky Mountain College in Montana to qualify for an "educational" draft deferment. During matriculation, however, Arlo, disgusted by the school's bureaucracy and the townspeople's antagonism, drops out. Traveling east, he visits his dying father, Woody, in a New York hospital and participates with Stockbridge, Massachusetts, friends Ray and Alice Brock in the founding of a commune in a deconsecrated church and, later, the establishment of a restaurant. Communal harmony is disrupted by Shelly, an incorrigible drug addict to whom Alice compassionately makes love. After an altercation with Ray, Alice runs away to New York, where she encounters Arlo in Greenwich Village. Together they return to the commune for a mammoth Thanksgiving feast. Finding the city dump closed for the holiday, Arlo deposits a half ton of garbage in a ravine. Alerted by a passing motorist, Officer Obie identifies the culprit by means of a letter found in the trash heap and arrests Arlo for littering. At a hearing before a blind justice, Arlo pleads guilty. As a consequence he is declared unfit for military service by the army. After his father dies of Huntington's chorea and Shelly dies of an overdose of heroin, the grieving communards participate in a ceremony celebrating the renewal of the Brocks' wedding vows. During the festivity, Ray proposes the purchase of farmland in Vermont. The group, its ardor dampened by Shelly's death, is unenthusiastic. Despite Ray's pleas, the former friends separate. As Arlo and his girl friend, Mari-chan, depart, the disconsolate Alice watches from the door of the empty church.