‘Drifters’ is a poem about one woman’s refusal to abandon hope, in spite of overwhelming hardship. The family has to move from place to place, as the father needs to move by the demand of his job. Despite Dawe’s use of causal language, if you read carefully you would be able to see the seriousness of what he is saying.
The narrative structure adopted in this poem is third person limited. In the wife’s point of view, this is effective as a wife wants a family more than husband and belonging to a place is closely tied to belonging in a family.
The free verse structure reflects the life of the poem’s subject, as the wife has no control over of where the family is headed.
Similarly to use of enjambment, it suggests the uncertainty in life of the drifter; “One day soon..”
Repetition of ‘and’ shows that the persona is thinking about what is going to happen. This demonstrates she has experience moving times before. It raises more subtle questions.
The poem begins without indicating who these people are or what has happened to them in the past, references to “he” and “her”. Throughout the poem the central character is never given a name. The significance of this is the wife is an anonymous woman due to the lack of a permanent place to live. No one knows her name. She could perhaps represent others.
Some examples of selective imagery are the green tomatoes being premature; the family has not been there long enough for them to ripe conveying uncertain future. The bottling set that was never unpacked, the wife has not got the chance to use them and does not bother anymore, accepting instability. The shrivelled fruit symbolising unfulfilled dreams and the hands bright with berries in hope of new situations.
The irony of the final line “Make a wish, Tom, make a wish” is her words coming back to her bitterly, hope.
The controlling idea of this poem is the inevitability of restlessness in the life, to not give up