Harvard Law student Oliver Barrett IV and music student Jennifer Cavilleri share a chemistry they cannot deny - and a love they cannot ignore. Despite their opposite backgrounds, the young couple put their hearts on the line for each other. When they marry, Oliver's wealthy father threatens to disown him. Jenny tries to reconcile the Barrett men, but to no avail. Oliver and Jenny continue to build their life together. Relying only on each other, they believe love can fix anything. But fate has other plans. Soon, what began as a brutally honest friendship becomes the love story of their lives.In his senior year at Harvard, Barrett decides to do his studying at the Radcliffe library; it is quieter and has plenty of women. One of the young women working there today is a "bespectacled mouse type," and he asks her to help him find a book. She is not helpful; in fact, she insults him by calling him "Preppie" and saying that he "looks stupid and rich." Barrett assures her he is smart and poor; she assures him it is she who is smart and poor.
When she takes her glasses off to argue with Barrett more effectively, he sees her eyes are brown, but he will not let a "'Cliffie" call him dumb, even if she has pretty eyes. She claims to be smart because she would never have coffee with him; when Barrett says he would never ask her, she claims that is what makes him stupid. Barrett takes her for coffee only because he gets to study the book he needs while he waits for her. When she steps from behind the counter, he approves of her legs but not her too-Bohemian outfit.
They go to a nearby sandwich shop, where she finally introduces herself as Jennifer Cavilleri, a music major of American-Italian descent. He introduces himself as Oliver Barrett but omits the "fourth." He is thankful she does not associate him with Barrett Hall, the largest and ugliest building in Harvard Yard.