Adapted from Frederick O'Brien's novel, a derelict physician who complains about whites ruining natives finds an island with no other Europeans.
On a Pacific island Sebastian (Robert Anderson) trades a wrist watch for a pearl. Dr. Matthew Lloyd (Monte Blue) says that he is ashamed of what whites have done to the natives.
A diver comes up fast and bursts veins, and another has his lungs collapse. Sebastian tells Matthew not to coddle his workers; but Matthew knocks him down and tries to help the diver, who dies. Matthew goes out to a ship and says it has bubonic plague and must be burned. He is forcibly kept on the ship.
After a storm, Matthew wakes up on a beach. He gets a coconut from a tree and opens it to drink the milk. He sees naked women bathing, but they run away from him. The men find him, and he collapses. They carry him to the village. Women massage him with coconut oil, and he meets Fayaway (Raquel Torres).
They prepare for a feast by picking coconuts and catching turtles, octopus, and fish. The food is prepared and cooked. Some natives dance, and they eat. When Matthew becomes too friendly with Fayaway, her father tells him that she is tapu as a virgin bride of the temple.
Matthew goes out in a canoe with Fayaway. They climb a tree and admire a flower. A boy has drowned. Matthew gets the water out of his lungs but can't get him to breathe until after a delay. Fayaway thanks him for saving her brother, and her father lifts the tapu. Matthew and Fayaway kiss.
A native throws away a pearl from an oyster, and Matthew picks it up. He finds another pearl in an oyster. The chief learns that Matthew has been diving for pearls. Fayaway asks Matthew why he is troubled.
At night Matthew makes a fire, hoping that a ship will come. Fayaway is sad that he wants to leave, but Matthew changes his mind.
The next day a ship arrives. Matthew tells them to stay away from the evil boat, but some go aboard. Sebastian sees a pearl, trades for it, and decides to go ashore. Matthew tells Sebastian to go away, but Sebastian says that he will open a pearl store. Matthew tries to fight Sebastian, but a sailor shoots Matthew. The natives run away, and Matthew staggers to his hut. Fayaway comforts him, but he dies.
In the final scene Sebastian has a store, and natives work and smoke. Fayaway grieves.
This moral tale reflects the historically recent European
influences on native cultures in the Pacific that have changed
their ways of living. Often a particular resource becomes the
snake in the garden of Eden.