Paris Trout is a vile Southern bigot. He owns a store and is a loanshark. He often sues people, and so his lawyer, Harry Seagraves, eventually meets Paris' wife Hannah. A former schoolteacher, she made the mistake of her life when she married Paris, who brutalizes her. Soon Paris goes beyond the overgenerous bounds of what a man in his position can get away with even in the segregated South, leading to a spiral of perverse insanity.