Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 378

Although friendship between two unlikely persons—an elderly, wealthy, white Jewish widow and her black chauffeur—is the predominant theme of the play, race relations, human dignity, integrity, and trust are other important themes in the play. It takes a man of great personal integrity like Hoke to lessen and eventually to eliminate the subconscious prejudice harbored by Miss Daisy. Although Miss Daisy compares African Americans to little children and makes snide remarks about Christians, she asserts to Boolie throughout the play that she is not prejudiced and he knows it. Miss Daisy’s subconscious bigotry is also depicted in her expression of utter displeasure at her daughter-in-law’s elaborate Christmas decorations and her socializing with Episcopalians.

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Hoke, honest and protective of Miss Daisy but never subservient, is also not free from prejudice. He successfully negotiates a raise with Boolie while at the same time making a disparaging comment about Jeanette Harris, Boolie’s cousin’s wife, who tried to hire him away from the Werthans as her chauffeur. “Now what you think I am? I ain’ studyin’ workin’ for no trashy somethin’ like her.” When Miss Daisy extends a backhanded invitation to Hoke for the Martin Luther King Day celebration, the audience can see that her prejudice is ebbing but is still present. Hoke establishes his integrity and personal dignity when he responds to the invitation, “Nevermind baby, next time you ask me someplace, ask me regular.” It is only after Hoke cautiously and lovingly talks to her during her lapse into senile dementia that she brings herself to say, “You are my best friend, Hoke.”

The personal drama of Miss Daisy and Hoke draws its sustenance from the larger context of changing race relations in Atlanta, Georgia, and throughout the United States. Sporadic allusions to segregated bathrooms, Boolie Werthan’s hesitation to attend the Martin Luther King dinner for fear of being branded as “Martin Luther Werthan” behind his back and subsequently losing his business contacts, and Hoke’s granddaughter teaching biology at Spelman College are examples of the lack of progression in transforming the racial landscape. It is Uhry’s brevity and the suggestion of the possibilities of multicultural friendships that lend the play its full meaning and save it from being a sappy melodrama.

Themes

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1001

Race and Prejudice
Race and prejudice are important themes in the play. Prejudice is demonstrated against both African Americans and Jews. Several brief statements remind readers of the situation for African Americans in the South. Hoke tells Boolie that he has had a hard time finding a job, for ‘‘[T]hey hirin' young if they hirin' colored.’’ Years later, Hoke refers to the fact that African Americans cannot use white facilities. Prejudice against Jews is demonstrated through the bombing of the temple and Boolie's reference to businessmen who dislike and stereotype Jews. He recognizes their belief that "as long as you got to deal with Jews, the really smart ones come from New York.’’ Hoke also specifically mentions the way many Southerners feel toward Jews: ‘‘People always talkin' bout they stingy and they cheap, but doan' say none of that roun' me.''

Daisy, herself a Jew, feels prejudice against African Americans, though she denies it. When the play opens, Daisy refers to African Americans as "them," which does not escape Boolie's notice. After she is convinced that Hoke is stealing from her, she becomes more aggressive in her accusations. ‘‘They all take things, you know,’’ she tells Boolie. Later in the same scene, she even says, ‘‘They are like having little children in the...

(The entire section contains 1379 words.)

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