Oliver is in his last year at Harvard College when he meets Jenny. She works in the library of Radcliffe College where she studies music. They have coffee together and talk about their studies. Jenny calls Oliver “Preppy” because he attended a Preparatory School. Oliver invites Jenny to an ice-hockey match.
Oliver is a good ice-hockey player. In the match against Dartmouth he is too rough and is sent off the ice for two minutes. Jenny teases him by calling him a dirty player and says she is leaving. When he is back on the ice, Oliver looks into the audience for a minute to see if she is there or not. In that moment he is knocked down, and feels ashamed. Oliver’s team beats Dartmouth 7-0. Oliver had a bad knee and so he sits in the whirlpool after the match, until he suddenly remembers that Jenny is waiting for him outside. They kissed, later, on the telephone, Oliver tells Jenny that he loves her.
When Oliver goes to meet Jenny at Briggs Hall where she lives, she is making a telephone call. Oliver is afraid she’s talking to Martin Dowiason who’s the conductor of the Beach Society Orchestra and likes Jenny very much. But he hears that she is speaking to a certain Phill, saying she loves him. Phill turns out be Jenny’s father, with whom she had a close relationship. Oliver finds it difficult to understand, because his own relationship with his father is so different. When he tries to explain that to Jenny, she doesn’t understand it. In her opinion, the fact that his father drove all the way to Ithaca to watch Oliver play hockey, proves that he loves him.
For a time there is little physical contact between Oliber and Jenny. But all of a sudden one afternoon they make love. They are both very happy.
Ray Stratton is a good roommate. Whenever Jenny and Oliver want to be together in the room, Ray went of to some other place. Ray cannot understand why Oliver has given up his freedom and is going steady with Jenny. After a concert in which Jenny places the harpsichord, she tells Oliver that she has a chance to study music in Paris. Oliver does not want her to go, so he asks her to marry him. Jenny accepts his proposal.
On the way home, Jenny says she cannot understand why Oliver is so nasty to his father. She confesses that she loves Oliver not only for his personality, but also for his name and title and she is sure Oliver’s love for her is part of his rebellion against his father. When Oliver has lunch with his father, they quarrel about Jenny. Mr Barrett says Oliver has deliberately chosen a poor girl in order to rebel against the family tradition. He tells Oliver not to marry until he has finished law school. Otherwise he will no longer support Oliver financially. Oliver walked away angry.
Oliver is afraid that his visit to Jenny’s father will not be a success either. He has no money now that his father doesn’t send him away. But Mr Cavilleri is very kind and asks Oliver to call him Phil.
Oliver applies for a scholarship. The dean doesn’t want to give him one, because his father is so rich.
Jenny and Oliver both get their B.A degrees. A few days later they are married in a special ceremony in which they receive poetry to each other. Afterwards they have a beer party with Phil and a few friends.
During the rest three years of their marriage, while Oliver is studying for his law degree, he and Jenny have little money. They spend their honeymoon working at a boat club; Jenny takes care of the children and Oliver takes people out in a boat. They live in a cheap apartment in Cambridge. Jenny teaches music at a private school. They don’t have enough money to go out or to entertain friends.
Jenny and Oliver receive an invitation from Oliver’s father to come and celebrate his sixtieth birthday. Jenny thinks it’s time for a reconciliation between Oliver and his father, but Oliver refuses. When Jenny phones Mr Barrett to tell him the cannot come to the dinner, Oliver refuses to talk with his father. Jenny’s last words on the phone: “Oliver loves you very much”, makes Oliver very angry. He tells to Jenny to get out of his life and Jenny disappears. Oliver looks for her all through the town and university. When he got home, she is waiting on the steps. Olive wants to apologize, but Jenny says: “love means not ever having to say you’re sorry”.
When Oliver is promoted to his final year inlaw school, he’s third in his class. He is very busy in his final year writing articles and editing the Law Review.
When he is graduated from law school, Oliver is offered many good jobs. He takes a job with Jones and Marsh, a law firm in New York. They pay him a high salary.
In New York they take a luxurious apartment near Oliver’s office. Oliver becomes a member of the Harvard Club of Nw York, thanks to his old friend Raymond Stratton. Jenny and Olive often talk about the son they would like to have.
When Jenny not get pregnant, she and Oliver go to a doctor to find out what the trouble is. A few days later, the doctor calls Oliver into his office to tell him that Jenny has leukemia and soon will die, Jenny herself has not been told.
Oliver is grateful to God for every day Jenny and he have together. He tries to act normally, so that she will not suspect anything, when his boss asks him to go to Chigago on business, he makes up an excuse. Oliver buys tickets for a trip to Paris. But when he gets home, Jenny tells him that she has been to the doctor that day and now know about the illness. She wants them to spend the time they have left as normally as possible.
One evening she feels so ill that she asks Oliver to take her to the hospital. Oliver tells the specialist to do everything Jenny wants and not to mind the expanse.
Oliver asks his father to lend him $5000. He needs the money to pay Jenny’s hospital bills, but he doesn’t tell his father she has leukemia yet. His father gives him the money.
Phil moves to Oliver’s apartment to be near the hospital. He spend the time between visiting hours cleaning the place. Jenny tells her father she wants a Catholic funeral. She died in Oliver’s arms.
Oliver and Phil comfort each other, as Jenny told them to do. In the hospital lobby Oliver’s father is waiting. Oliver tells him that Jenny is dead and his father says his sorry. Then Oliver repeats Jenny’s words: “love means not having to say you’re sorry”. He cried in his arms.
Oliver Barrett IV: a law student with very rich parents..
Jennifer Cavilleri: a music student, whose Italian father is a baker.
Oliver Barrett III: Oliver’s father.
Alison Forbes ‘Tipsy’ Barrett: Oliver’s mother
Phil Cavilleri: Jenny’s father.
Ray Stratton: Oliver’s roommate and friend.