The narrator of the story, a young man named Juansheng, describes the beginnings of his relationship with a young woman named Zijun, as well as the relationship's decline and her eventual death. Juansheng woos Zijun with talk about women's independence and strength, championing Nora Helmer, the main character in Henrik...
The narrator of the story, a young man named Juansheng, describes the beginnings of his relationship with a young woman named Zijun, as well as the relationship's decline and her eventual death. Juansheng woos Zijun with talk about women's independence and strength, championing Nora Helmer, the main character in Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House. Nora eventually becomes aware of her oppression within her home and leaves it and her family behind to discover herself. Zijun falls in love with Juansheng, and he believes himself to be in love with her. They move in together, incurring the wrath of a society whose rules dictate that people should be married before living together. But Juansheng and Zijun do not care about what other people think, as they are a young couple making their own way in the world.
They rent a room in a house owned by another family, and Zijun soon begins to behave as though the only things that matter to her are cooking and the home. Despite her initial strength and independence, she essentially becomes relegated to the role of a housewife because she has no opportunity to work. She wants to contribute monetarily to their household, so she sells her only jewelry to do so. However, Zijun is denied any more opportunity to advance herself financially. She begins to grow weak, and her personality begins to change as she spends all her time cooking and caring for the dog and chickens she has purchased.
Eventually, Juansheng is fired because of his lifestyle choices, and they must eat the chickens. Then they must get rid of the dog. Zijun seems to grow weaker and emotionally colder, and Juansheng spends as much time as he can away from home. One morning, he decides to tell her the truth: he doesn't love her anymore, and she should consider herself free to leave him without guilt or remorse. When she does go home to her father's house, Juansheng is a bit shocked, and he gradually realizes that his life has little meaning without her love. When he learns that she has died, less than a year after they moved in together, he feels his life to be silent and empty, and he knows that he essentially ruined her life by moving in with her, unmarried, and then abandoning her. She had no other choice but to become dependent on him, because society would not allow her to support herself.