An upper-middle class peasant inherits his father's farm, which he hopes to pass on to his children. When the twin boys are born, there is joy in the family until they realize that they are severely retarded - to use the term of the day, idiots. And then another son is born, also an idiot. In desperation, Jean Pierre joins the church, which he has no use for, and a daughter is born. Another idiot. Jean Pierre becomes even more angry and abusive to his wife, whom he blames for producing four idiots. This story, although written over 100 years ago, has elements that are applicable today, such as whether the privileged actually care about those of lower status and our treatment of the homeless and mentally ill.