The antagonist in Strong Wind is Tropbanana, a North American fruit company. The novel begins when Tropbanana is establishing banana plantations on the Pacific coast of an unnamed Latin American country. Adelaido Lucero is one of many natives of the highlands drawn to work in the great enterprise of taming the tropical lowlands and carving plantations from them. He remains in the company town, marries, and rears his family there. He will work for the company all his life, but he buys land for his sons so that they will be able to be independent.
Lester Mead, an American, also buys land, and he, along with Lucero’s now grown sons, finds himself in conflict with Tropbanana. These independent growers prospered while the company bought their bananas at a good price. When the company decides to cut the price by more than fifty percent, however, Mead refuses to sell at a loss. He goes to Chicago to talk to the head of the company, but he fails to win any concessions for the independent growers.
When Mead returns to the plantations, he suggests that the independent growers form a cooperative. The efforts of the members of the cooperative to preserve their independence from the company form the core of the novel.
The company retaliates by taking over all the cooperative’s markets and then has two of the cooperative members arrested during a demonstration of workers who are protesting against the company’s policies. Mead finds that the only way to secure their release is through bribery: There is no legal recourse, and the company controls the press and the government.
By the end of Strong Wind, neither the company nor the growers have won a clear victory. The growers still own their land and the company still controls its plantations. Yet the strong wind of the title has devastated the land and has claimed the lives of Lester Mead and his wife.