The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

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...

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Dramatic Devices

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Driving Miss Daisy is a one-act play with scene shifts occurring about twenty-four times throughout the play. The play spans two and one-half decades. The structure of the play is episodic and moves chronologically forward, providing insight into characters’ lives through simple events and incidents like a trip to the cemetery or to Alabama to attend a birthday celebration, a Christmas party at Boolie’s home, an ice storm, a celebration of Martin Luther King, and a visit to a nursing home. The plot and action are deceptively simple while the dialogue slowly unravels key information about the main characters. When Boolie appraises Hoke of his mother’s “high-strung” and independent nature and wonders if Hoke would be able to handle her, Hoke’s pithy response is “I use to wrastle hogs to the ground at killin’ time, and ain’ no hog get away from me yet.” Uhry creates a charming lyrical rhythm by using southern dialect punctuated with colloquial expressions. He is a master of understatement, and it is what the play does not say that actually enhances its appeal.

Issues concerning ethnicity and race, conflicts between the young and old, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile are all addressed with subtlety and economy. The exposition, besides introducing the conflict, also imparts necessary information pertaining to the geography, economy, and time through dialogue about cars, insurance, and the churches that people attend. The climax is...

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Historical Context

(Drama for Students)

The 1940s
After the end of World War II, American society and economy saw significant changes. During the war, many women,...

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Literary Style

(Drama for Students)

Daisy's automobiles (of which there are many) are central symbols in the play. For Daisy, driving her own car...

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Compare and Contrast

(Drama for Students)

1950s: Of a total U.S. population of close to 164.3 million in 1955, around 7.4 million are aged between 65 and 79, or 4.5 percent....

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Topics for Further Study

(Drama for Students)

One way that actors "get into'' their roles is to imagine their characters in situations that are implied but not included in the play. Try...

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Media Adaptations

(Drama for Students)

Uhry wrote the screenplay adaptation for 1989's Driving Miss Daisy. The movie starred Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, and Dan Ackroyd....

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What Do I Read Next?

(Drama for Students)

Uhry's second play, The Last Night of Ballyhoo (1997) tackles the unexplored aspects of southern anti-Semitism. Uhry again returns to...

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Bibliography and Further Reading

(Drama for Students)


Brustein, Robert, Review of Driving Miss Daisy in New Republic, Vol. 197, No. 13, September 28,...

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(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Gussow, Mel. “Driving Miss Daisy.” New York Times, April 16, 1987, p. C22.

Kauffman, Stanley. “Cars and Other Vehicles.” The New Republic 202 (January 22, 1990): 26-28.

Kauffman, Stanley. “Southern Comforts.” The New Republic 208 (April 5, 1993): 30-31.

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