Awash with entertainingly developed Oedipal variations, A Son is Born begins in 1920 when heavy-drinking womaniser Paul Graham marries Laurette against her family's wishes. He neglects her and spoils their son David, turning the boy against his mother. Laurette eventually leaves her husband and David elects to stay with his father, refusing all contact with his mother. She later marries her employer John Sheldon, a wealthy industrialist and widower who has a teenage daughter, Kay. When Paul is killed in a car accident, David goes to live with the Sheldons. Never having forgiven his mother for leaving his father, David sets out to revenge himself on her by seducing Kay into marriage and then deserting her immediately after the marriage. His regeneration begins, however, when he is sent to New Guinea during the war and undergoes a number of cathartic moments, including being nursed back to health by Kay, who has since become a nurse. After returning to Australia, he reunites with Kay and vows to repair the damage he has done to their parents.