Jun 2, 2020 in Analysis

Driving Miss Daisy

The 1950’s were the turning point in the lives of black people residing in the South. It was also the time of prejudices and stereotypes. Driving Miss Daisy is a movie that vividly depicts these notions. The movie starts with a scene in which the main character, Miss Daisy, damages her car. Since its repair requires considerable expenses, the insurance company forbids the elder woman to drive herself any further. That is why her son Boolie decides to hire a chauffeur for his stubborn aging mother. This paper discusses the movie and critically analyzes its components, paying attention to the differences between characters of different cultures.

The plot of the movie focuses on a slowly developing relationship between two people – Miss Daisy and her chauffeur Hoke. At first, Miss Daisy does not want an old black man to help her. Miss Daisy is a woman holding strong core values and beliefs, and she does not support the idea of having servants in the house. She never admits that she is rich enough to be driven around “like a queen of Romania.” That is when the audience witnesses the conflict in the movie for the first time. Miss Daisy is prejudicial to black people, whom she considers dishonest and lying, uneducated and stupid. Even though she has a maid by the name of Idella in the house, she does not want to have more servants who would stick their noses into her affairs. 

 

When Idella first meets Hoke, she greets him with a phrase, “I wouldn’t be in your shoes if the sweet Lord Jesus came down and asked me himself”. In fact, working for Miss Daisy is rather challenging. Having firm Jewish beliefs and views on life, she never even suggests that somebody can have a different view or opinion. That is why Hoke is extremely patient in his attempts to win her trust. Actually, it is not a movie about disadvantaged African-American people who fight for their rights years after the Civil War. It is a movie about friendship and developing relationship between people. Indeed, the racial and cultural conflicts are present in the story. However, the main conflict is in eliminating prejudices and changing views on life.

The climax of the movie comes when one morning Miss Daisy wakes up and feels confused. She believes that she is still a school teacher. Miss Daisy thinks that she has lost the textbooks that she needs to return to children. Further, Miss Daisy starts losing her mind and memory. She is in her 90’s when it happens. However, at the moment of insight, she admits that Hoke is her best friend. Certainly, this moment can be called a resolution. The movie logically ends when Hoke visits Miss Daisy in a senior home. Miss Daisy accepts Hoke as her friend letting him feed her with a pumpkin pie while her own hands are trembling.

Driving Miss Daisy is a story of a 25-year long relationship between two people, who, under different circumstances, would never even meet, moreover, would never become friends. “Never gonna understand some white folks”, says Hoke when Miss Daisy has an argument with him in a car. In the movie, the antagonist is not a particular person. None of the characters can be considered negative. Meanwhile, Miss Daisy’s prejudicial attitude towards Hoke is the antagonist itself. Her distrust and resistance to Hoke are based on her pointless suspicions and false accusations. “Oh, I knew, I knew it was something funny. They all take things, you know”, says Miss Daisy when she thinks Hoke is stealing canned salmon from her. However, with the course of time, the relationship of these characters evolves. Miss Daisy is definitely the dynamic character in this movie while Hoke is static. He is never changing his patient, polite and friendly attitude, and therefore encourages Miss Daisy to see him from a different angle.

The movie examines the theme of relationship between two people in the middle of the 20th century when black people living in the South still encountered racial prejudice. They were not eligible to have education and highly paid jobs. What is more, they were considered criminals and representatives of lower class. That is why the setting of 1950’s and 1960’s is perfectly illustrated in the movie. Miss Daisy stubbornly rejects Hoke’s attempts to do his job – to drive her whenever she needs to go. In addition, it is typical of Miss Daisy to be in the back seat, as it shows that she will never be socially equal to Hoke. She never seats in the front seat, next to Hoke. Thus, sitting in the back seat emphasizes a large gap between them. There are many symbolic moments in the movie. The scene where Hoke is planting the flowers in Miss Daisy’s garden has a very deep meaning. Usually, Miss Daisy forbids Hoke to help her with the garden, “If I want a vegetable garden, I’ll plant it myself”. However, at the end of the movie, right before Miss Daisy starts displaying signs of dementia, they are working in the garden together. At this moment, the sun is shining brightly, unlike the first time. This scene shows the evolution of their relationship and how they have formed a lasting friendship. 

I like this movie for its special atmosphere as well as the acting talent of main actors. The movie also educates the viewers about discrimination of black people in America. I like how precisely the uneducated African-American people living in that period are shown in Driving Miss Daisy. Hoke is a kind-hearted man who proves his noble intentions many times. Even though he cannot read, he tries his best to learn and kindly takes a book as a present from Miss Daisy. “You is rich, Miss Daisy” – “No, I am not”. For sure, his obvious illiteracy irritates Miss Daisy the most. She is a qualified English teacher, and she cannot stand somebody speaking illiterately to her.  

I also like this movie because it teaches us how to form a friendship and show mildness. In the period between 1950’s and 1970’s, a friendship between a rich white Jewish woman and a black Catholic man would be almost impossible. The phrase, “Never gonna understand some white folks” illustrates the tremendous difference in mentality of rich white and poor black people. Hoke cannot imagine having as much money as Miss Daisy has and not boasting about it. Meanwhile, she is offended when Hoke says she should show her wealth without shame.

There is a special moment of unity between Hoke and Miss Daisy when he drives her to Alabama to celebrate her brother’s birthday. I like the moment when Miss Daisy supports Hoke for the first time. When two police officers come to Hoke, wondering where he has taken such an expensive car, Miss Daisy, sitting in the back seat, says that she owns it. Certainly, it was interesting to watch how police officers treated African-American citizens back in the 1960’s. Black people were not supposed to own cars or have highly paid jobs. That always raised suspicions. 

When comparing Hoke and Miss Daisy’s son Boolie, many differences and similarities can be found between them. Boolie is a rich white businessman who is being torn between two women in his life – his wife and his mother – as the two women cannot stand each other. Consequently, Boolie tries very hard to make both of them happy. Hoke also helps Boolie distract his mother from thinking about her daughter-in-law. Thus, even though Hoke works for Boolie, these two men become very good friends. Hoke does not feel uncomfortable calling Boolie any time and telling him the stories from his life. Boolie develops a liking for Hoke the day they meet, when Hoke tells him he has worked as a driver for Judge Stone before. Judge Stone, a Jew, was a friend of Boolie’s father. That is why Boolie does not hesitate to hire Hoke. Boolie and Hoke are of different background and social status. Boolie was born in a Jewish family, and Hoke is a Catholic. Even though Boolie is influenced by his wife, who imposes Catholic traditions on him, he is a Jew in his heart. Even after selling Miss Daisy’s house, Boolie and Hoke continue communicating. Boolie keeps paying Hoke for his work, even though Hoke can no longer drive, and Miss Daisy is living in a senior home. Boolie and Hoke have different life stories and cultural backgrounds. However, they become friends as Boolie sees the positive influence that Hoke has on his stubborn mother. What they have in common is their love and care for Miss Daisy. Nevertheless, Boolie refuses to accompany his mother to Martin Luther King’s speech since his business colleagues may disapprove it. Thus, it shows that Boolie is still very different from Hoke, who does not worry about other people’s opinion. Hoke does not have any worries about his reputation and is not apprehensive of the future. He is an ordinary man with a kind heart, who does not depend on other people’s views. Boolie, on the contrary, is under a constant pressure from his mother, wife, and business associates. 

The movie Driving Miss Daisy covers the topics of racial discrimination and fight of African-American people living in the South for their civil rights. However, these issues are not overly emphasized as the movie is more concentrated on relationship between two people. It is a story of a white woman who considers herself a liberal, but in reality, is prejudicial to black people. Miss Daisy personifies American white elite of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Meanwhile, African Americans did not have the right to go to the church the white people visited, have education and highly paid jobs, and even use the public toilet on gas stations or at cafes. Hence, Hoke, being in his 60’s, did not know how to read and write. He was used to the fact that people treated him as an underprivileged member of society, but still hoped for improvement and changes, and admired Martin Luther King’s ideas. Watching Driving Miss Daisy today, when racial discrimination no longer exists, helps us understand how much was lost before and how different the world was. 

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