14-year-old May is married off as the third wife to an older landowner of a rural village where silk is harvested. She soon finds that, having given birth to a son, the first wife exerts greater influence in the family than the second, who has only had three daughters, and that the only way to gain security and independence is to give birth to a male child.
May conceives a child, and discovers that Xuan, the second wife, is having an affair with the landowner’s son, and that the first wife is also pregnant. May is also attracted to Xuan and confesses her feelings to her, who rejects May’s advances. Having discovered the affair, the landowner arranges a marriage between his son and a girl, who is even younger than May. Rejected by her new husband, who is still attached to Xuan, the girl commits suicide.
The first wife has a miscarriage. May gives birth to a girl, and contemplates poisoning her. The film ends with one of Xuan’s daughters, who had once expressed desire to become a man and have many wives, cutting her hair with a pair of scissors.