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In the story 'A Step from Heaven' by An Na, Young Ju, the main character and apparently Uhmma's daughter at one point says that, "Uhmma said her hands were her life. But for us, (in reference to her children) she only wished to see our hands holding books. You must use this, she said and pointed to her mind. Uhmma's hands worked hard to make sure our hands would not resemble hers" (152). True to this word, according the how the story unfolds in An Na's novel, Uhmma surely does work hard and live undergo a lot of troubles to see that her children get the life that she wants with education being the prime one despite all the hurdles that life throws in her path. This paper will focus on how Uhmma struggles but finally succeeds to make her words to her daughter to come true but before presenting these details the paper will first of all have a short plot summary of the story.
Basically the story present an acculturation survival journey of a Korean immigrant family who relocate from Korea to California, America in pursuit of greener pastures or little peace of the American dream. The story unfolds under the narration of Young Ju Park a five year old Korean child who describes her experience as consequences of her parent's relocation to America. At first the girl is very much excited about the relocation to Mi Gook-America which to her sounds like heaven. On gong to America Young Ju realizes that her heaven is just another land called America which instead of offering her happiness leaves her suspended between adopting a new American culture and preserving the Korean way of life (Na pp 134).. The family goes through a lot of hurdles from immigration pressures, difficulties in language, and cultural expectations that are oppositional. This is reinforced by a frustrated and abusive father who turns out to be a drunk and physically abusive to the wife and children. Despite this the mother through her headstrong and obedient character finally manages to savage the welfare of her children even in the absence of the eloped father as she finally manages to secure them a home of their own in America.
Just as highlighted above the development of Uhmma as a character will be the focus of this paper as it will explore whether she finally manage to live by her philosophy stated above. From the above aforementioned philosophy, we clearly learn that Uhmma's heart desires were to see her children get a good education which her husband could not have afforded in Korea as h was just a fisherman and this is what prompts them to relocate to America where this dream was easier to achieve. Uhmma is presented as a very humble, obedient but also a very strong woman. She respects her husband and carefully and gently trends to avoid ruffling Apa's her husband Korean manhood even though he has been unable to fulfill the desire in her to see her children well of in terms of education. For the sole reason that Uhmma comes from a well to do family his husband runs offenses constantly in order to deflect what in his perception is her criticism. But this does not derail Uhmma from her course.
When the family migrates to America Uhmma is faced with lots of obstacles first she and her children have to adjust to the hurdle of immigration which include difficulties in communication as they are not conversant with the American language (Na pp 78). The situation is much more heightened in adopting new cultural expectations that are in the long run oppositional and hence she has to help her family in the struggle to fit in this new society. In order to be able to cater for her family and elevate them from the poverty that lurks in their home Uhmma and her husband have to take multiple jobs each of them taking three jobs. At one time it gets to a point where she has to work through her pregnancy since she can not fail in her determination to see her children get a better life.
Though Uhmma so desperately wants to see her daughter be a 'Mi Gook girl' and save her from the poverty that lurks in their home she is troubled by the fact that Young Ju is quickly drowning in the American ways and forgetting about her culture and hence has to keep her on the right track. Despite the problems of raising her daughter her son rebellion is also another problem to contend with. In addition to this, Apa eventually becomes a burden to her and the family. Since he is not pleased with type of menial works that he does which are cleaning other offices and landscaping (Na pp 121). he becomes a very frustrated man. This is added injury to by the fact that he cannot afford to buy a little house for his family but has them living in rentals which are in a dilapidated condition. In the face of this frustration Uhmma has to put up with a husband who eventually goes back to his usual drinking becoming more irresponsible and physically abusive. Uhmma has to put up with the suffering not only ,out of the beatings that she gets from her husband who eventually looses hiss job, but also watching him beat up Young Ju claiming that she is hanging around with American friends ho are 'bad American influence (Na pp 147).'
Uhmma being the hard working woman that she is, and holding a strong desire and determination to see her children get a better life and education blames herself for the beating that she and her children get and hence does not stand up to him due to fear even when he see him violently beat up her children. She has to work hard to maintain the family and mostly to see that Young Ju does not loose focus regardless of the situation at home. At the verge of this sufferings she also has to put up with her children unending, especially Young Ju's, who wants to know why her father behaves the way he does when he is drunk 'why does he do that' and why they had to come to America 'to speak English only at school(Na pp 125).'
Uhmma finally manages to brave her children through the waves of hurdle from poverty to Apa's physical abuse. Her perseverance and obedience finally pays as her daughter rises above in her education with a lot of excellence. She also helps her discover the reason why her father used to behave so destructively. When Apa finally decides to leave his family Uhmma characteristically has change to the extent that he can stand up to him. She tells him "I blamed you for my mistakes... now it is my turn to do the right thing for us." She tell Young Ju "my strong children will be fine without Apa (Na pp 143)"
As the above paper present Uhmma's determination to have her children lead a better life does not falter through out the whole story. In fact it continues to get strengthened the more she is faced with more obstacles. We see her working in her pregnancy and never letting her daughter loose focus even under the physical abuse of her father. Even when the husband turns to alcohol and becomes more irresponsible to the extent of letting out his frustrations on them we expect the home to collapse but Uhmma ensure that this does not happen. At the end her children especially Young Ju excel in their education as we see her preparing to go through collage even after their fathers departure. At the end of it all in her husband's absence Uhmma manages to secure her family a decent American house through her hard work. It is therefore very justifiable to say that her efforts do not falter and increase with hardships demonstrating her strong will which eventually sees her realize her desires single handedly.