The play’s central character is Lyman Felt, an insurance agent and bigamist who maintains families in New York City and Elmira in upstate New York. When he is hospitalized following a nearly fatal car crash on an icy mountain road, both wives—the prim and proper Theo, to whom he’s been wed for more than thirty years, and the younger, more assertive Leah, whom he married nine years earlier—show up at his bedside. When confronted with his duplicity, Felt states that the two options in life are to be true to others (and to what he deems a hypocritical society) or to himself, and that he has chosen the latter. He justifies his actions to both shocked women by explaining he has given them good lives, has supported them financially and emotionally, and has been a good father. He goes on to say that the two women have been happier with this arrangement than they would have been if they had been the only wife. As reasons for this he cites domestic boredom, routine, and the angst of being trapped in the same relationship forever. The play uses flashbacks to take us to previous situations both families have lived.
Doubts linger about the crash having been an accident, and some characters start suspecting it was an attempted suicide, maybe motivated by Felt’s growing discomfort about his unusual family arrangement. The flip side of the wives’ ostensible faultless lifestyle is also presented, when it is suggested that Leah has been involved in another relationship, and Theo admits to having experienced long spells of being cold and sexless. Every character starts having to deal with their own hypocrisy, even Felt’s outraged business partners who are later discovered to keep lovers. Through Felt, Miller presents the supposition that monogamy is an unnatural and unattainable state imposed on men by rigid but unnecessary social convention.