The film presents the tale of Agnese Ascalone, daughter of prominent miner Vincenzo Ascalone, and takes place in a small town in Sicily, as did Germi's previous film, Divorce, Italian Style. Agnese is seduced by her sister Matilde's fiancé, and has a tryst with him for which she confesses and tries to repent, only to be discovered by her mother and father. Vincenzo immediately demands that the man, Peppino Califano, marry his daughter, and antics ensue. The film is a dark satire of Sicilian social customs and honor laws, and is very similar to Divorce, Italian Style.
These Sicilian customs, including a form of bride kidnapping or elopement known as fuitina and the following "rehabilitating marriage" (matrimonio riparatore), were brought to national attention in 1966 by the case of Franca Viola. Her story was turned into the 1970 film, La moglie più bella (The Most Beautiful Wife) by Damiano Damiani and starring Ornella Muti.