A poor orphan girl, Nien, is on the run after stealing some food that a wealthy man had purchased to feed some dogs. She takes refuge with a singing garbage collector named Choo, who hides Nien in his garbage cart while the wealthy man and a policeman search for the girl. Choo then takes Nien back to his humble shack and gives her shelter. The pair fall in love, but their romance is cut short when he is drafted into the army and sent off to war. For a time, Nien takes over Choo's job as garbage collector, until she is adopted by a wealthy woman, who treats Nien as the daughter she never had. Choo comes back from the war, blinded by an explosion, Nien, while experiencing unimagined luxuries, is tortured by the conflict between her newfound wealthy lifestyle and her simple life with Choo.