Lonely and frustrated, Virgil Starkwell decides to become a professional thief. Though moderately successful at robbing gum-ball machines, he is apprehended and sent to prison when he attempts an armored car heist. His escape by means of a pistol whittled from a bar of soap results in a 2-year increase of his sentence. But Virgil courageously consents to act as a human guinea pig in a medical experiment and then is paroled and tries to go straight. Unable to find a job, he resorts to purse-snatching, and, while cruising a park for victims, he meets and falls in love with Louise, a lovely young laundress. Determined to change the course of his life, Virgil decides to rob a bank--but the tellers involve him in a heated argument over the spelling in his illegible holdup note, and Virgil again is put in jail. Louise visits him weekly and tries to keep up his spirits, but his jail term ends abruptly when he accidentally finds himself on the outside of the walls. Free again, he marries Louise and begins a new life by taking an office job in another state. Miss Blaire, a predatory fellow employee, learns about his criminal past and blackmails him, whereupon Virgil repeatedly attempts to murder her by stabbing her with a drumstick from the turkey dinner she has prepared. Having failed at an honest living, and with Louise now pregnant, Virgil makes plans for his future family by masterminding still another bank robbery--and once more finds himself behind bars. Undaunted, he effects a daring escape chained to five other convicts and makes his way back to Louise. Now a notorious fugitive, Virgil is recaptured and returned to jail. Sitting in his cell, he reflects on his life of crime as he picks up a bar of soap and begins to whittle.