William Hundert, St. Benedict's assistant headmaster, practices what he teaches. Striving to inspire his students to live rightly, he's the kind of impassioned Classics professor who believes the history of the Greeks and Romans is more than just a lesson about the past. He also believes the role of a teacher is not only to educate the pupil but to mold his character. But in the fall of 1972, Hundert finds his cloistered world of tradition and influence upended with the arrival of new freshmen Sedgewick Bell, the son of a West Virginia senator. Almost immediately, teacher and student become embroiled in a turbulent battle of wills with repercussions that would still be felt a quarter of a century later.