An alienated lonely fat man goes off the deep end in this Italian tragedy set in Naples. The man is Crecenzio, a portly meter reader who is first seen blowing up a building. The reasons for this drastic, desperate act provide the basis for the story, which is told in flashback. Up to the explosion, Crecenzio's life had been notable only for it's grimness.
His brother Beniamino is as lively and charismatic as Crecenzio is depressive and withdrawn. Beniamino works in an electrical repair shop run by a corrupt, brutish businessman. He works with Giuliana, another alienated soul. Crecenzio has feelings for Giuliana, but she seems to return them out of pity and perhaps empathy rather than real affection.
She also sets clear limits as to how much affection the lonely meter man can express to her. Anyway, Crecenzio is the least of Giuliana's worries as much of her time is spent fending off the advances of her boss. The employer becomes so insistent that Giuliana goes to Beniamino for help.
This makes Crecenzio jealous and the brothers begin feuding, but the real trouble doesn't begin until Giuliana is finally raped by her boss. When the meter man learns of the violence, something inside of him finally snaps and soon he is caught up in a destructive maelstrom that has a greater effect than Crecenzio ever imagined.