Ah-fei's mother, Hsin-chin, comes from a well off family headed by a doctor. Hsin-chin's marriage to a young engineer is not a happy one. Her circumstances change for the worse, and she can no longer count on her philandering husband to be the breadwinner. Her own family's fortunes have also declined with the death of her father. She is forced to pawn off her dowry to make ends meet. After paying off a bribe to some young men because her husband had had an affair with a married woman, Hsin-chin begins to asert herself as a matriarch. The family moves to Taipei where Ah-fei grows up and begins to show progress in her studies. Her father has changed into a meek and humble person, while her mother wields all the power. Ah-fei, being the daughter, is not favored by her mother, who looks more to her son. Thus Ah-fei must fight to convince her mother to let her go to a better school.