So Big! (1932) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Selina lived well until her father Simeon died. Her aunts sold the estate and put her in a boarding school. As an adult she wants to be a teacher in farming country. She falls in love with and marries Pervus, a Dutch farmer she has been tutoring. When he dies her hopes lie with their son Dirk, who disappoints her by giving up architecture for stock brokerage. Her new hope is Roelfe, the son of her former boardinghouse keeper and a sculptor. Dirk falls in love with Dallas O'Mara, whom Selina hopes will be the inspiration for her son's salvation.

  • In the 1890s, Selina Peake was being raised in Chicago by her widowed father, who lost everything to gambling. He is killed when Selina is a young woman, leaving her penniless and forced to take a job as a schoolteacher in a small Dutch community. Selina takes room and board with the Poole family, whose young teen son, Roelf, works the family farm rather than attend school. Selina soon begins tutoring Roelf, who is already artistic and thirsts after knowledge, and opens his mind to literature, art, and culture. He develops a schoolboy crush on her. ¶ Selina meets Pervus De Jong at a church fund raiser, and she agrees to tutor him in math to enable him to make better deals at the hay-market. It isn't long before he begins courting Selina, breaking Roelf's heart. Selina and Pervus marry and live a hardscrabble life working their farm. Selina gives birth to a 10-lb son they name Dirk, lovingly nicknamed So Big. Roelf leaves home when his mother dies, as he feels the life of farming is what killed her. Still a teenager, he strikes out on his own. ¶ When Pervus leaves Selina a young widow, her efforts to run the farm on her own are met with discouragement by the menfolk in town; the hay-market is considered no place for a woman. But she dreams of a proper education for So Big, and is determined to succeed. She does so by giving up on cabbages and radishes in favor of developing a thriving asparagus farm. ¶ Dirk graduates from college with a degree in architecture. He enjoys the high life, and thus laments his meager pay in an architecture firm. Selina encourages him to stick with it, but the married woman Dirk is involved with entices him to leave architecture to join her husband's investment firm. He becomes assistant manager, and he does well for himself, but he is unhappy with his life. He hires artist Dallas O'Mara to create an ad for the firm. She is shocked and disappointed that he would give up architecture for finance. He falls in love with her, but she refuses to marry him because he isn't willing to really work for a living. ¶ Dallas introduces Dirk to her old friend, Roelf Poole, who has become a renowned sculptor in Europe. Roelf realizes Dirk is the same child he knew as So Big all those years ago. He is keen to reunite with his former tutor, and invites Dirk to join him and Dallas on the visit. Dirk looks on with humility and Dallas with admiration as Selina and Roelf exchange praise for their respective accomplishments. She is pleased and humbled to learn that Roelf owes his success to her influence. Dallas observes that Selina is possessed of the distinguished beauty that is only afforded to those who carry a light inside and have the calloused hands to show for it.

  • Following the death of Selena's father, she's offered a job as a teacher in a small town and a new chapter of her life begins.


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