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Earnest Seeker is sinking into boredom teaching high school in a small Midwestern town. He yearns for adventure in the wider world. He joins the Navy and escapes to California. San Diego is glorious but the good life ends when he is stationed on a destroyer. His ship in Greece returns to the Navy yard in Philadelphia. Increasingly alienated from military life, Earnest seeks life's deeper meaning in Eastern philosophies. Seen to be a bad influence on his shipmates, he is threatened with violence. He takes to the road to allow his mind to recoil from the deadly grind of military life. In his long ramble around the US he finds adventure and regains a feeling of freedom. Back on the Navy base, he seeks discharge as a conscientious objector. Now, officially a black sheep in limbo, he is kicked off his ship. Seen as a dangerous sea lawyer and Socratic Gadfly by the officers, he knows that his liberation must soon fall like a ripe plum.