Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 841
Set in Atlanta during the 1940’s through the 1970’s, Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Driving Miss Daisy, is an engaging drama that captures effectively the blossoming friendship between two unlikely characters—Miss Daisy, a wealthy, elderly Jewish widow, and Hoke, her African American chauffeur. Uhry explores the nuances of their growing personal affinity within the context of Atlanta, historically the locale of economic instability and significant civil rights activity. Proudly self-reliant, independent and sprightly, Miss Daisy is forced by her son, Boolie, to accept Hoke as her chauffeur. Boolie determines that she is incapable of driving herself after she backs her car into the garage of her neighbors, the Pollards. Although initially she is reluctant to accept Hoke’s services, Miss Daisy soon perceives that she has more in common with Hoke than she ever imagined. Within the first few days of their encounter, Hoke defines the parameters of their relationship when he says, “Miz Daisy, you needs a chauffeur and Lawd know, I needs a job. Let’s jes’ leave it at dat.” Hoke’s observation of their situation echoes Miss Daisy’s statement about Idella, her housekeeper: “She’s been coming to me three times a week since you [Boolie] were in the eighth grade and we know how to stay out of each other’s way.”
Uhry weaves the tapestry of their relationship deftly with incidents like one in which Miss Daisy accuses Hoke of eating her can of salmon without her permission and demands that Boolie have a talk with him but is deeply embarrassed when Hoke returns the next morning with a new can of salmon as replacement. This incident is similar to the morning of the ice storm, years later, when Hoke braves the storm to bring Miss Daisy her morning coffee from Krispy Kreme as he knows that she does not have electricity in her house. Such scenes define the rich texture of their relationship. Another such incident occurs when Hoke and Miss Daisy go to Alabama for her brother Walter’s ninetieth birthday. They get delayed after losing their way once, in spite of her meticulous planning, and Hoke has an urgent need to relieve himself. They have just passed a service station, but it is the age of Jim Crow, and “colored” people are not allowed to use this facility, so Hoke stops the car just a few miles short of Mobile, much to the chagrin of Miss Daisy. He leaves the car and takes the key with him. She realizes her dependence on him and he articulates his need for maintaining his dignity.
Along with these “nicks and dents” in the relationship, Uhry provides glimpses of rare intimacy emerging between the two characters. They share their deepest memories uninhibitedly. One such moment occurs when Miss Daisy shares with girlish timidity her first memory of her trip to Mobile, Alabama, and the memory of the salty taste of the ocean waters. When Hoke drives Miss Daisy to the synagogue and learns that the temple has been bombed, he recalls the lynching of his friend’s father and the effect it had on him as a young boy while gently reminding Miss Daisy that although she and the world may claim that things are changing, prejudice still lingers. Earlier, during a routine visit to the cemetery, Hoke also discloses to her, with great embarrassment, his inability to read. Miss Daisy teaches him to read and gives him a gift at Christmastime (all the while insisting that it is not a Christmas gift). It is a writing tablet that she used as a teacher. With characteristic sense and keen sensibility, Uhry charts the course of their friendship through everyday incidents.
There are two other characters in the play, Idella, the housekeeper, and her daughter-in-law, Florine, who are so often alluded to, and in such vivid manner, that the audience feels their...
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