Driving Miss Daisy

by Alfred Uhry

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The play spans a period of twenty-five years in an unbroken series of segments. At the beginning of the play, Daisy Werthan, a seventy-two-year-old, southern Jewish widow, has just crashed her brand-new car while backing it out of the garage. After the accident, her son Boolie insists that she is not capable of driving. Over her protests, he hires a driver—Hoke Coleburn, an uneducated African American who is sixty. At first, Daisy wants nothing to do with Hoke. She is afraid of giving herself the airs of a rich person, even though Boolie is paying Hoke's salary. She strongly values her independence, so she also resents having someone around her house.

For the first week or so of Hoke's employment, Daisy refuses to let him drive her anywhere. He spends his time sitting in the kitchen. One day, however, he points out that a lady such as herself should not be taking the bus. He also points out that he is taking her son's money for doing nothing. Daisy responds by reminding Hoke that she does not come from a wealthy background, but she relents and allows him to drive her to the grocery store. She insists on maintaining control, however, telling him where to turn and how fast to drive. On another outing, she gets upset when he parks in front of the temple to pick her up, afraid that people will thinking she is giving herself airs.

One morning Boolie comes over after Daisy calls him up, extremely upset. She has discovered that Hoke is stealing from her—a can of salmon. She wants Boolie to fire Hoke right away. Her words also show her prejudice against African Americans. Boolie, at last, gives up. When Hoke arrives, Boolie calls him aside for a talk. First, however, Hoke wants to give something to Daisy—a can of salmon to replace the one he ate the day before. Daisy, trying to regain her dignity, says goodbye to Boolie.

Hoke continues to drive for Daisy. She also teaches him to read and write. When she gets a new car, he buys her old one from the dealer.

When Daisy is in her eighties, she makes a trip by car to Alabama for a family birthday party. She is upset that Boolie will not accompany her, but he and his wife are going to New York and already have theater tickets. On the trip, Daisy learns that this is Hoke's first time leaving Georgia. Suddenly, Daisy realizes that Hoke has taken a wrong turn. She gets frantic and wishes aloud that she had taken the train instead. The day is very long. It is after nightfall that they near Mobile. Hoke wants to stop to urinate, but Daisy forbids him from doing so as they are already late. At first Hoke obeys her, but then he pulls over to the side of the road. Daisy exclaims at his impertinence, but Hoke does not back down.

Hoke is exceedingly loyal to Daisy, but not so loyal that he does not use another job offer as leverage to get a pay raise. He tells Boolie how much he enjoys being fought over. One winter morning, there is an ice storm. The power has gone out and the roads are frozen over. On the telephone, Boolie tells Daisy he will be over as soon as the roads are clear. Right away, however, Hoke comes in. He has experience driving on icy roads from his days as a deliveryman. When Boolie calls back, Daisy tells him not to worry about coming over because Hoke is with her.


(This entire section contains 963 words.)

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the next segment, Daisy is on her way to temple, but there is a bad traffic jam. Hoke tells her that the temple has been bombed. Daisy is shocked and distressed. She says the temple is Reformed and can't understand why it was bombed. Hoke tells his own story of seeing his friend's father hanging from a tree, when he was just a boy. Daisy doesn't see why Hoke tells the story—it has nothing to do with the temple—and she doesn't even believe that Hoke got the truth. She refuses to see Hoke's linkage of prejudice against Jews and African Americans. Though she is quite upset by what has happened, she tries to deny it.

Another ten years or so has passed. Daisy and Boolie get into an argument about a Jewish organization's banquet for Martin Luther King, Jr. Daisy assumes Boolie will go with her, but he doesn't want to. He says it will hurt his business. Daisy plans on going, nonetheless. Hoke drives her to the dinner. At the last minute, she offhandedly invites Hoke to the dinner, but he refuses because she didn't ask him beforehand, like she would anyone else.

As Daisy gets older, she begins to lose her reason. One day Hoke must call Boolie because Daisy is having a delusion. She thinks she is a schoolteacher and she is upset because she can't find her students' papers. Before Boolie's arrival, she has a moment of clarity, and she tells Hoke that he is her best friend.

In the play's final segment, Daisy is ninety-seven and Hoke is eighty-five. Hoke no longer drives; instead, he relies on his granddaughter to get around. Boolie is about to sell Daisy's house—she has been living in a nursing home for two years. Hoke and Boolie go to visit her on Thanksgiving. She doesn't say much to either of them, but when Boolie starts talking she asks him to leave, reminding him that Hoke came to see her. She tries to pick up her fork and eat her pie. Hoke takes the plate and the fork from her and feeds her a small bite of pie.