Essay On Raise The Red Lanterns Analysis

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Education, Society, Film, Cinema, Family, Women, Love, Attention

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/11/09

This is a Chinese film that as produced in 1920s that present a frightening but bold parable of how women are governed and ruled with long-established customs in many societies. The main character in the film is Songlian, a nineteen year old girl, who drop out of collage after the death of their father. She looks for alternative means of survival since her step mother was not willing to support her and her father their family bankrupt. She is forced to marry into the Chen family, which is very wealth, as a fourth mistress. Circumstances have forced Songlian to sell herself to the rich man and his wills in order to survive from poverty that was left behind by her father. Unfortunately, life changes and finds herself imprisoned in the compound of her master with so many challenges that are common in a male-dominated society.
The master has set rules, regulations and customs that all the concubines must follow in his compound. There are houses for each concubine though all are in the same compound. Every evening the master chooses the house where he would like to spend the evening. After the selection, a red lantern is lit outside that house and the owner is given a special treatment. For example, she is allowed to select her favorite menu and is given a foot massage. The film depicts marriage as a disconnected and cold institution, where husbands express no intimate affection even to their newly married brides. Master Chen seems to have little concern for the other concubines even when they are undergoing life challenges. For example, while Chen was spending a night with Songlian, a servant reported that the third mistress was not feeling well, but he said he could only attend her the following day. She could not have been attended were it not for her continued insistence.
The master is not shown in the entire film though his authority is clearly felt in all the houses even in his absence. In the film, the master is either portrayed from behind or obscured using a veil. The reason why the master is not portrayed as a character with flesh or clearly seen is that he is supposed to act as a symbol of male dominance. The master in this film is portrayed like the owner of properties rather than a loving husband to his wives. Once the master arrives at the compound, everything changes, and Songlian becomes tensed as she faces much hostility from her husband. All the concubines then start competing with each other for affections and attention from their husband. They also seem to pretend in order to draw attention of their master, implying that the patriarchal male dominance society has forced them to live a life of denial.
Lantern in this case is a symbol of passion and power that are characteristics of a male-dominated society. Men in such society possess a lot of power which they use to rule women who on the other hand are forced to believe that they are not equal with me, who are small gods. The entrance of each four apartments is dominated with bright red colors that are symbols of love and passion. Women in this society are dominated with passion and lack of fulfillment from their husbands. They compete for love and attention from their husbands, who can satisfy them fully due to divided attention. They are forced to live with their passions since the society rule cannot allow them to look for other men to fulfill them. Those who practice infidelity face the wrath of the society that cannot allow such behaviors. In the film, one concubine is executed by hanging for practicing infidelity after realizing that she was not favored in competition with others for love and attention.
The film is an allegory that is not direct, to complain against sexual politics and authoritarianism, which are common characteristics in male-dominated societies. The Chinese government was not willing to approve the film since it portrayed the corruption and decay of the modern society in the country. Songlian could be used to portray women and other disadvantaged groups in the society. the master may be represent the exploiter, who in this case is the government, that makes rules and legislations that promote corrupt behaviors such as sexual politics, male dominance, authoritarianism, corruption, among others. The master may also represents rich politicians and other senior members of the society who uses public resources to live lavish styles and to serve their needs such as sexual pleasures at the expense of the poor people. The government has created an environment that punishes women who disobey the established societal expectations against women. Songlian tries to move away from these customs when she refuses to share meals with other mistresses and insist she will only do so in her apartment. This action seems even to surprise other concubines who are not used to such disobedience since they were born.


Zhang, Yimou (dir). Raise the Red Lantern. 1921. Los Angeles: Orion Classics, 1991. Online.

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"Essay On Raise The Red Lanterns Analysis," Free Essay Examples -, 09-Nov-2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 12-Aug-2022].
Essay On Raise The Red Lanterns Analysis. Free Essay Examples - Published Nov 09, 2020. Accessed August 12, 2022.

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