It was 9 o’clock in the morning, 2009, and I was working for custodial in this big, empty basketball field. There stood those lonely soda bottles and popcorn boxes, and I swept them down the floor. Just in a second, I encountered the song “Driftwood”, which later became one of my favorites. Honestly, those were my hardest days ever. Alone, in a huge and remote countryside, and far away from the city life and cultural circumstances which I got used to. While I was trying fit in, I was not so sure if I should give up some innate ideas and habits. Or should I stay in my own little place and pretend what happening outside would not affect me? Where is my right position in this society? I have been seeking answers for these questions all along. The sense of not connected to either homeland or the new living place made me exactly a piece of driftwood, and drifting outside of the majority. At this point, the song “Driftwood” and the feeling of helplessness held my breath. “Underwater” would be an accurate description to my life at that time. Brilliant sunshine, scent of flowers, and laughter were in front of me, yet I was trapped in the water by my own mind. It was cold, solitary, and siren. I did not know how to reach out for relief. I was “floating underwater.”
Although the song titled with an object, it is clear that the term “driftwood” is personified with a “home”, a “heart” and a “wish”. In this song, “driftwood” refers to a certain type of people, being disconnected with their roots, and drifts in the crowd and waits for time and life to shape them. The whole is written in a pattern to convince people to leave their retreat behind and set off for drifting. In the very first stanza of the song, when the singer says “but your heart had to roan/drifting over bridges/never to return”, he suggests that “your heart” is destined to leave the connections behind and drift, and there is no way home. However, they are afraid of what is going to happen in their journey “underwater”. “Everywhere there is trouble/nowhere is safe to go” Travis sings and points out people’s worrisome. Besides there is still “water”—unpredictable difficulties and turn-overs in life, and water “will find you, bind you, grind you.” They are too worried of “turning into pieces, pieces, pieces” to leave off the shore. Maybe they will become real driftwood, “hollow and of no use”. “So I’m sorry that you’ve turned to driftwood” Travis sings, “but you’ve been drifting for a long, long time”. The singer knows to cut off all their leeway is only chance for these people to “reach your shore” in the end.
The most obvious rhetoric method used in “Driftwood” is the repetitive use of key words. The action of “drifting” appeared several times throughout the song, which emphasis the status of the people described in the song – drifting, endless, helpless, hopeless, and for a “long, long time”. Also, the repetitive appearance of the term “long, long time” lays stress on the hardship and the endlessness during the way of “drifting”. Besides, the repeat of “and you really didn’t think it would happen/but it really is the end of line” stress although the people themselves do not believe they will end up “drifting underwater”, this is what is they will finally do. The way Travis placed the two similar stanzas, in the middle of the song and at the end of the song, creates a sense of the story goes on in circle, and it will end at the beginning.
Another not to be neglected rhetoric method appeared is metaphor. Despite the major metaphor of compare driftwood to people, there are many other metaphors throughout the whole song. The “bridge” in “watching bridges burn” stands for the connections with the past and the leeway. Watching it burn and doing nothing means a solid resolution of set off for the unpredictable future. The term “shore” in “until reach your shore” symbolizes an ideal achievement that one could have after enduring the arduous life journey.
The primary idea Travis is trying to illustrate is the notion that one should jump in with both feet, no matter how hard the path may be, to reach the glorious success. By using personification, metaphor, and repetition, I can sincerely indulge to the environment Travis described. The song comes up with the realization of there is no way to escape from the “drifting” experience, “until you reach your shore”.