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When she was a child, Anna Christie's sailor father left her with cruel and abusive relatives on a farm. Leaving the place as a young woman, Anna drifted into prostitution in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her father, Chris, now captain of a coal barge based in New York, receives a letter from her indicating that she is coming to New York. Anna has been in a hospital and resents the fact that, over the years, her father has not attempted to locate and help her. Anna finds Chris in a waterfront bar where he has been keeping company with Marthy, an old souse. Although they have not seen each other for many years, Anna and her father eventually reconcile and she takes care of him on the barge. During a trip up the coast, they rescue a young sailor, Matt, who falls in love with Anna. Although she has grown to hate men, she is very attracted to Matt, but is unable to keep her previous life a secret. After she confesses her past to Matt and to her father, Matt leaves her. However, realising that he cannot live without her, Matt returns. Anna swears on his mother's crucifix that she loves only him and they are reunited. Anna is then content with the prospect of becoming Matt's wife and looking after her father.