No longer a child, Valli is forced out of the orphanage where she was raised and returns to the fishing village where she was born, to live with her aunt and uncle. Valli's parents were denied their own boat by the mudalali, who controls all aspects of the fishing trade in the village. Instead, Valli's father fashioned a homemade outrigger, and he and Valli's mother perished at sea. While her uncle and other villagers are resigned to their dismal life under this feudal system, Valli, an outsider, is appalled. She finds the iniquities of life in the village, especially the prejudices against women, to be intolerable. Inspired by her parents' courage and independence, Valli sets out to change things.