“Only then did his gray eyes disappear from the thick smoke that filled our lungs and consumed out dreams”. “A Birthday Gift” by Amy E. brings you to a factory, where boys, some at the age 9, work in hazardous conditions to provide for themselves or their families through the cold winter of 1873. It is the birthday of one of the eldest boys, Joseph, but it is not being celebrated. He is not celebrating it because he has to work to provide for himself, he has a firm belief that getting older is not better. While, Henry, a younger boy, wants Joseph to relax and enjoy himself, but Joseph refuses. Joseph’s health is also an issue, after working in the factory for so many years and with so much effort. The argument between the boys of celebrating a birthday, spouts out an allegory for the gratitude for the future, hoping atrocious situations will become better. I enjoyed this short story not only of the plot, but also the issue it introduces.
It is uncommon that boys work in such an industrial place, due to child labor being illegal in most countries. The story states that it takes place in 1873, which is a time where child labor was legal, probably ignored. The short story takes that hurtful issue and soils it into the message it brings out. The reason why Joseph does not want to celebrate his birthday for his increment in age, but he won’t be able to help the future generations who are facing similar causalities from working in a mechanical factory. During the argument between Joseph and Henry, after saving a younger boy from injuring himself, Joseph says,“ Every hour I work now is an hour he doesn’t have to work later .” He has faith in the future despite what happens to him, hoping that his current struggles will no longer affect others. The message the story shares is something every one of us should focus on. As the youth becomes more experienced, we should also focus on helping those following us.