The first act, "Bimini", begins with an introduction to the character of Thomas Hudson, a classic Hemingway stoic male figure. Hudson is a renowned American painter who finds tranquility on the island of Bimini, in the Bahamas, a far cry from his usual adventurous lifestyle. Hudson’s strict routine of work is interrupted when his three sons arrive for the summer and is the setting for most of the act. Also introduced in this act is the character of Roger Davis, a writer, one of Hudson’s oldest friends. Though similar to Hudson, by struggling with an unmentioned internal conflict, Davis seems to act as a more dynamic and outgoing image of Hudson’s character. The act ends with Hudson receiving news of the death of his two youngest children soon after they leave the island.
"Cuba" takes place soon thereafter during the Second World War in Havana, Cuba where we are introduced to an older and more distant Hudson who has just received news of his oldest (and last) son’s death in the war. This second act introduces us to a more cynical and introverted Hudson who spends his days on the island drinking heavily and doing naval reconnaissance for the US military aboard Hudson's yacht, converted to an auxiliary patrol boat.
"At Sea", the final act, follows Hudson and a team of irregulars aboard their boat as they track and pursue survivors of a sunken German U-boat along the Jardines del Rey archipelago on the northern coast of Cuba. Hudson becomes intent on finding the fleeing Germans after he finds they massacred an entire village to cover their escape. The novel ends with a shoot-out and the destruction of the Germans in one of the tidal channels surrounding Cayo Guillermo. Hudson is presumably mortally wounded in the gun battle, although the ending is slightly ambiguous. During the chase, Hudson stops questioning the death of his children. This chapter rings heavily with influences of Hemingway’s earlier work For Whom the Bell Tolls .