The decline of a large, bourgeois family shortly after the overthrow of the Manchu Dynasty. Mr. Gao's three sons by his first wife are all oppressed by the feudal ethical code of the time. eldest son Gao Junxin is an extremely weak man. Not daring to show displeasure or speak out, he gives in to his family's demands and agrees to marry Li Ruiyu, although he really loves a girl called Miss Mei. Ruiyu later dies as a result of the oppressive code. The family declines further. When progressive ideas begin to sweep China, Juexin finally begins to wake up. Second son Gao Juemin falls in love with a Miss Qing, but determines to follow his heart and marry who he chooses. He rejects a marriage arranged by his family and moves out. Third son Gao Juehui falls in love with family servant Ming Feng, and enthusiastically joins the student movement. when the local ethical association director wants to take Ming Feng as his concubine she chooses death by drowning herself. Juehui decides to disassociate himself from the family and devote himself to revolution.
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