The film revolves around 3 main characters and each of them suffers in a different way.
If I could describe this film in one word, that word would be:
Tian Qing had always been portrayed as a person who is not capable of sustaining on his own. He is always reliant on others to get by life and when placed beside his uncle, Jin Shan, he is immediately perceived to be the lesser-capable human when it comes to every single aspect of life, which makes him a figurative prisoner; forever trapped in his uncle’s shadow. In my opinion, this makes him a victim of oppression as he finds it impossible to break free of his uncle’s shackles, unable to forge his own identity. Which is why the film portrayed him differently after he managed to do something his uncle failed to do – impregnate Ju Dou. His posture, demeanour and attitude contrast that of the previous ones which he wore, before he shared a romantic relationship with Ju Dou. Perhaps this gave him confidence and a new belief, he finally felt he is superior, able to accomplish a task which his uncle couldn’t.
Jin Shan, on the other hand, was also portrayed as a victim (?), in my opinion. Not literally. Figuratively, just like Tian Qing. He too was being shackled by something, but unlike Tian Qing, he was burdened by the huge responsibility he was tasked with. He needed to bear a child in order to continue his family lineage. This troubled him so much because he resorted to force and violence in order to really make Ju Dou pregnant. Due to tradition and culture, he was “forced” to become the man that he was portrayed as in the film – violent, selfish, despicable.
Just like Tian Qing and Jin Shan, Ju Dou was also a victim. Her role as the victim is pretty straightforward compared to the other two. Often physically abused by her husband for failing to get pregnant, this led her to break down emotionally. Also, who knows what she was doing before she was bought by Jin Shan. She could very well be a slave. Combine all the physical and emotional abuse suffered, she definitely felt oppressed.