Study Guide

Driving Miss Daisy Cast

  • Miss Daisy (Jessica Tandy)

    That's Miss Daisy—and don't you forget it.

    She's Mama to Boolie, Daisy to her friends, and Mother Werthan to Florine—but she's Miss Daisy to the help. Even the title lets us know that we're dealing with a traditional Southern lady locked into traditional Southern attitudes.

    The Times They are a-Changin'

    Daisy Werthan is a wealthy Jewish widow, aged 72 at the start of the film in 1948. That means she was born just 11 years after the end of the Civil War. Reconstruction had failed, and blacks no longer had equal access to public facilities or equal protections under the law. Daisy grew up in a highly segregated South where oppression, exclusion, and lynchings (Hoke witnessed one) were the daily experience of African Americans. Atlanta wasn't as bad as the rural areas of Georgia, but there were still "colored-only" and "whites-only" schools, restaurants, bathrooms, and water fountains. Intermarriage between whites and blacks was illegal. Even black barbers were prohibited in Georgia from cutting the hair of white customers.

    Think about all the changes Daisy sees in her 96 years. Here's how one theater critic described it:

    She was in Atlanta when Leo Frank was lynched in 1913—one of the most horrific displays of anti-Semitism in Atlanta's history. She lived through the woman suffrage movement and the passage of the 19th Amendment (which guaranteed women's right to vote), World Wars I and II, the Temple bombing of 1958, Martin Luther King Jr.'s ascension to fame and the civil rights movement, the Cold War and the beginning of the Watergate Scandal. (Source)

    No wonder she's clinging to her old ways; the whole world's changing faster than she can keep up. Daisy's essentially decent nature is challenged by trying to adapt, especially to a world where assimilation and desegregation is challenging all the ideas she's had about herself as a liberal and progressive person.

    Hear Her Roar

    At 72, Daisy probably knows she's not as capable of some things as she used to be, but darned if she'll admit that to anyone, especially Boolie. She doesn't want to accept any help from him; she's fiercely and stubbornly independent. She's got a maid, as most wealthy Southern women did, but she doesn't like to feel dependent on her. And she hits the ceiling when Boolie tells her she's not competent to drive:

    BOOLIE: You backed the car into the Pollacks' yard.

    DAISY: You should have let me keep my LaSalle. It wouldn't have behaved this way.

    BOOOLIE: Mama, cars don't behave. They are behaved upon. You demolished that Chrysler by yourself.

    DAISY: Think what you want. I know the truth.

    Even after Boolie hires Hoke, Daisy refuses to have a chauffeur.

    DAISY: Unless they rewrote the Constitution and didn't tell me, I still have rights!

    BOOLIE: Of course.
    DAISY: What I do not want, and absolutely will not have, is some chauffeur sitting in my kitchen, gobbling up my food, using my phone. I'd hate that in my house.

    BOOLIE: You have Idella.

    DAISY: Idella's different! She's been coming to me for years. We stay out of each other's way.

    While Hoke's waiting for Daisy to relent, he tries to make himself useful around the house, but she shuts that down, too:

    HOKE: Good morning, Miss Daisy. Thought I'd see after your zinnias.

    DAISY: You leave my flower bed alone!

    HOKE: You got a nice piece of ground behind the garage that ain't doing nothing. I could put in tomatoes, butter beans…

    DAISY: If I want a vegetable garden, I'll plant it myself.

    Hoke just can't cajole her into letting him drive.

    DAISY: I'm fixing to go to the Piggly Wiggly on the trolley.

    HOKE: On the trolley! Why don't you let me carry you?

    DAISY: No, thank you.

    HOKE: Ain't that why Mr. Werthan hired me?

    DAISY: That's his problem.

    Finally, after a week of his wearing her down, she lets Hoke drive her to the Piggly Wiggly—something Hoke likens to the effort it took the Lord to make the world.

    Rags to Riches

    Everyone wants to be independent. Particularly when you get old and people start treating you like a child, you hang on to whatever control you have left in your life. Daisy's no different. But there's another reason she's so uncomfortable with the idea of hired help: deep down, she doesn't feel rich and she doesn't like people thinking that she is. Even though she, like, really is.

    Daisy grew up poor; she got her money when she married into a well-to-do family. Getting by on her own is something that she learned from a young age and she still carries those values.

    HOKE: That insurance company gave you a brand new car for nothing.

    DAISY: That's your opinion.

    HOKE: My other opinion is that a fine, rich, Jewish lady like yourself has no business dragging herself onto a trolley carrying grocery bags. I'll carry them for you.

    DAISY: I don't want you! And don't say I'm rich!

    HOKE: I won't say it no more.

    DAISY: Is that what you and Idella talk about? I hate being discussed behind my back in my own house! I was born on Forsyth Street. Believe me, I know the value of a penny! My brother brought home a white cat once. We couldn't keep it because we couldn't afford to feed it! My sister saved up money so I could become a teacher! We had nothing!

    So that's it. She doesn't want people to see her as a pampered, helpless rich lady. One day when Hoke picks her up in front of the Temple, she lets him have it:

    DAISY: Miriam and Beulah, I could see what they were thinking when we came out.

    HOKE: What's that?

    DAISY: That I was pretending to be rich!

    HOKE: You is rich.

    DAISY: No, I'm not! Nobody can say I put on airs. On Forsyth Street we made many meals out of grits and gravy.

    A poor childhood is hard to forget; Daisy's still thinking of herself in some ways as a poor Jewish girl living in the old neighborhood. She's proud that she became a teacher and made her own way.

    For all Daisy's bluster, there's still a lot of insecurity under there. As critic Don Shewey writes, "Her physical and social vulnerability, because of her age and because she's Jewish in an overwhelmingly Christian society, only exacerbates the sharpness with which she hides her fear and fragility" (source). Hoke, perceptive as he is, probably realizes this; it makes him more patient with her.

    The Teacher

    Part of Daisy's bossy and controlling demeanor might be left over from her days of having to control a classroom of kids. (Disclaimer: Shmoop loves teachers. Loves them.) She's orderly, obsessive, and is very particular about how things have to be done. We're not sure at first we'd like to have her as our teacher, but the way she handles Hoke's illiteracy makes us suspect that underneath all the badgering and (and maybe slapping upside the head) she'd send our way is a deep commitment to our learning.

    When Hoke tells her he can't read, she goes into her teacher mode—ornery as usual, but not demeaning. A white supremacist would have been glad Hoke couldn't read. Daisy's just plain mad about it.

    DAISY: What are you talking about?

    HOKE: I'm talking about I can't read, ma'am.

    DAISY: What?

    HOKE: I can't read, Miss Daisy.

    DAISY: You look at the paper all the time.

    HOKE: Well, that's just it. I just be looking! I try to dope out what's going on from the pictures.

    DAISY: You know your letters?

    HOKE: Yes, ma'am. I know my ABC's. I just can't read.

    DAISY: Stop saying that! You're making me mad! If you know your letters, then you can read. You just don't know you can read. I taught some of the stupidest children God ever put on this earth. And they all could read enough to find a name on a tombstone. The name is Bauer. Bauer! What does that ''buh'' letter sound like?

    HOKE: B?

    DAISY: Of course! ''Er.'' That is the last part. Bauer! What letter sounds like ''er''?

    HOKE: R!

    DAISY: So the first letter is...

    HOKE: B!

    DAISY: And the last letter?

    HOKE: R!

    DAISY: B-R. ''B''-''er.'' It even sounds like Bauer, doesn't it?

    HOKE: It sure do, Miss Daisy! It sure do! […] Miss Daisy?

    DAISY: Yes?

    HOKE: I sure do appreciate this!

    DAISY: Don't be ridiculous! I didn't do anything!

    This is a very moving scene because it gives us our first real look at Daisy's respect for Hoke. She knows he's a smart man who wasn't given educational opportunities. She gives him a task she knows he can accomplish and feel good about. You see Hoke's pride when he's able to find the Bauer gravestone at the cemetery. Later, she gives Hoke a writing instruction book that she used when teaching at an all-white school back in the day. She says something that she thinks will make Hoke feel good about it:

    HOKE: Look at that. Ain't nobody never gave me no book before. ''Zaner Method Writing.''

    DAISY: I always taught out of these. I saved a few. It's faded, but it works. If you practice, you'll write nicely. But you have to practice. I taught Mayor Hartsfield out of the same book.

    Daisy's subtly implying that there's no difference between Hoke and the mayor in their ability to learn. Maybe they'll name an airport after Hoke, too.

    Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

    DAISY: I've never been prejudiced in my life and you know it.

    Daisy really believes that she doesn't have a prejudiced bone in her body. Having probably grown up on the receiving end of prejudice, she sees herself as pretty liberal. What she doesn't see is that her prejudiced attitudes are so much a part of her that she doesn't even recognize them. She pays lip service to tolerance, but many of her actions say otherwise.

    Daisy isn't any nastier to Idella and Hoke than she is to Boolie, but she runs her household in a way that totally communicates their subservient status. She makes pickles for Idella to take home to her husband, but she wouldn't eat them in the same room with her. When a can of salmon goes missing from the pantry, she immediately suspects that Hoke's stolen it from her because, you know, "they" are like children—they can't be trusted. When Hoke wants to stop the car en route to Mobile so he can "make water," she angrily tells him he should have used the bathroom at the service station. She forgets that it was off limits to blacks.

    Daisy struggles with this difference between her self-image as a liberal and her actual behavior. One great example of this disconnect: she agrees with Dr. Martin Luther King's ideas and goes to hear him speak, but she's uncomfortable inviting Hoke to attend with her. She tries to cover this up, but Hoke sees through it:

    DAISY: Boolie says you wanted to go with me to this dinner. Did you tell him that?

    HOKE: No, I didn't.

    DAISY: I didn't think so. What'd be the point? You can hear him whenever you want. I think it's wonderful the way things are changing.

    HOKE: Now what you think I am, Miss Daisy?

    DAISY: What do you mean?

    HOKE: The invitation to this dinner came in the mail a month ago. Now, if did be you wanted me to go with you, how come you wait till we in the car on the way before you asked me?

    DAISY: What? All I said was Boolie said you wanted to go.

    HOKE: Next time you want me to go somewhere, you ask me regular.

    Talking the talk again, but not walking the walk. Dr. King's words must have felt like they were directed right at her:

    VOICE OF DR. KING: History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people. And our generation will have to repent not only for the words and acts of the children of darkness, but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.

    Unfortunately, still true today.

    Reviving Miss Daisy

    Is there hope for Daisy to be her best self? Are haters just gonna hate? Fortunately for our lady, her relationship with Hoke helps her get past some of her deep-seated prejudiced ideas. She's not exactly marching on the Georgia statehouse, but she shows some gradual change. Daisy's more evolution than revolution. Let's sum up some of the major wakeup calls on Daisy's rode from totally rejecting Hoke to completely accepting him as a friend, confidante, and equal.

    • She realizes she's falsely accused him of stealing based on her prejudices about "the help."
    • She learns that he can't read and teaches him.
    • On the trip to Mobile, he reminds her that he's only stopping by the side of the road to pee by because the gas station bathrooms are "whites only."
    • The Temple bombing makes her realize what it's like to be on the receiving end of hateful and violent intolerance.
    • Daisy hears Martin Luther King, Jr. talk about the damage done when good people are silent. She knows he's talking about her.

    Daisy's cranky and bossy, but it's Shmoop's humble opinion that she's not hateful at heart. Having said that, we admit she says some hateful things. But during these vignettes in the film, we see that she's ashamed of herself when she finds out she's wrong. Jessica Tandy wordlessly conveys how bad Daisy feels about it. Check out this still photo of Daisy as she listens to Dr. King speak.

    It's a subtle process. As critic Don Shewey noted about the original stage production, "Miss Daisy's realization that the decorum she clings to reeks of racial injustice, and the grace and inner strength that Hoke musters not to be destroyed by it, exist almost completely between the lines—which is also why the play demands exceptional actors" (source).

    As Daisy and Hoke get to know each other over the years, she gradually lets him into her life. She shares memories of her childhood that she probably hasn't even shared with her son; they mourn for Idella together; they plant a garden side by side. He's still her servant, but he's becoming much more than that to her. As she gets on in years, she accepts more and more of his help. When Boolie calls to see how she's doing on a wintry day, Daisy's just fine, thank you very much:

    BOOLIE: Mama, I'll be right out when I can get down my own driveway.

    DAISY: Stay home, Boolie. Hoke is here with me.

    DAISY: How'd he manage that?

    HOKE: He's very handy. I'm fine. I don't need a thing in the world.

    BOOLIE: Hello? I have the wrong number. Mama's saying loving things about Hoke.

    At the end of the film, as Daisy develops dementia, Hoke's there to comfort her. She tells him he's her best friend. Even though she's confused and agitated, we sense she means it.

    Even after Daisy's living in a retirement home and he doesn't work for her anymore, he comes to visit. She doesn't want to talk to anyone else when Hoke's there. We can see in retrospect how important he's been to her all those years, although she'd never admit it then. It took all of Shmoop's 3-pack of Kleenex Ultra-Soft to make it through that final shot of Hoke helping Daisy eat her pie. There was a lot of love in that scene.

  • Hoke (Morgan Freeman)

    Freeman Take the Wheel

    Morgan Freeman is Hollywood's quintessential "magical N****." He helps white men get out of jail. He trains white women to be professional boxers. And he helps you get a credit card. Like Visa, Morgan Freeman is everywhere white people want to be. He's been typecast as a magical N**** ever since starring as the almost-magical Hoke in Driving Miss Daisy.

    Author Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu lays out the five qualities of a magical N****.

    • "He or she is a person of colour, typically Black, often Native American, in a story about predominantly White characters.
    • He or she seems to have nothing better to do than help the White protagonist, who is often a stranger to the Magical N**** at first.
    • He or she disappears, dies, or sacrifices something of great value after or while helping the White protagonist.
    • He or she is uneducated, mentally handicapped, at a low position in life, or all of the above.
    • He or she is wise, patient, and spiritually in touch. Closer to the earth, one might say. He or she often literally has magical powers."

    Let's see how Hoke Colburn fits that description.

    • Hoke's black, but the story is about white Miss Daisy.
    • Hoke has nothing better to do than help Miss Daisy. We never see his personal life. The film is almost entirely from her point of view. She never even asks him how he's doing. It's assumed his only role is to help her and that he doesn't even have a life outside the driver's seat of her car. He's a stranger to the family at first, appearing out of nowhere to fix an elevator in Boolie's factory before taking the job as family chauffeur.
    • Hoke can't read.
    • Hoke is a Christian along with Idella, the black maid. He doesn't have magical powers, but he can drive on ice to the Krispy Kreme, and we all know that people who live in Atlanta cannot drive on ice. Therefore, maybe he is magical.
    • Hoke doesn't sacrifice himself to save Miss Daisy, although he does often sacrifice his own dignity to keep his job.

    Wise Man

    Hoke's a 60-year-old widower at the start of the film. He's the strong, quiet type. He's grown up in segregated Georgia and was denied much of an education—he can't read until Daisy teaches him, and he's never been outside of Georgia. He works hard to be a good provider for his daughter and grandchildren. He's the handy guy you like to have around the house, unless you're a stubborn elderly woman in total denial about her needs. He's worked as a driver before, and in case that wasn't enough, he prefers working for Jewish people.

    Hired.

    Hoke is an almost unnaturally patient, noble, gentle, compassionate, forgiving man. He never fails to treat Daisy well despite her dismissive and, at times, demeaning treatment of him. But he won't kiss up. As film critic Roger Ebert describes the character, Hoke maintains his dignity. "Hoke is not obsequious. He is not ingratiating. He is very wise" (source). Freeman plays the role with incredible restraint.

    Hoke's got a quiet confidence. When Boolie warns him that Miss Daisy can be tough to deal with, he's not fazed:

    HOKE: When I was a little boy back on the farm above Macon, where I come from, I wrestled hogs to the ground during killing time. Well, sir, there ain't a hog that's got away from me yet!

    Hoke learns to be good at handling Daisy by agreeing with everything she says, then slowly winning her over. He lets her refuse rides from home for a week before he follows her in her car as she's walking to the grocery store.

    DAISY: Go away! I've ridden the trolley with groceries plenty of times!

    HOKE: But I can't keep taking Mr. Werthan's money for doing nothing.

    DAISY: How much does he pay you?

    HOKE: Miss Daisy, that's between him and me.

    DAISY: Anything over $7 a week is highway robbery!

    HOKE: You sure are right about that! Especially since I don't do nothing but sit on a stool all day.

    Hoke's smart—his appeal to Daisy's frugality does the trick:

    HOKE: Mr. Werthan? Yes, sir, it's me! Guess where I'm at. I just drove your mama to the store! You know, she flapped around some, but she's all right. She's in the store. Oh, Lord, she just looked out the window and seen me. She'll probably throw a fit right there at the check-out counter. Yes, sir. You are right about that. It only took me six days. Same time it took the Lord to make the world.

    He's got a way about him that lets him show Daisy respect without fawning over her. Here's a good example of them bonding over their traditional family values compared to Boolie's modern ways:

    HOKE: Mr. Sig's grave is mighty well tended. I think you're the best widow in the state of Georgia.

    DAISY: Boolie's always pestering me to have the staff here tend to this plot. "Perpetual care," they call it.

    HOKE: Well, don't you do it! It's right to have a member of the family looking after you.

    DAISY: I'll never have that! Boolie will have me in perpetual care before I'm cold.

    Hoke and Daisy have a lot of these moments. They "get" each other at some level. She opens up to him because she knows he'll always listen. She doesn't think Boolie listens. Boolie makes sure that Daisy's practical needs are taken care of, but he doesn't really spend quality time with her. He outsources that part to Hoke.

    A Little Respect

    Hoke might not get much respect from Daisy at first, but he never loses his self-respect. He's proud and dignified; just like Daisy, he wants to maintain his independence. As a black man, he's had a lifetime of people telling him how to live his life. He's not too proud to buy Daisy's used cars, but he buys them on his own terms.

    BOOLIE: Why didn't you buy it from Mama? Would have saved money.

    HOKE: No, sir. Your mama is in my business enough as it is. I ain't studying about making monthly payments to her. She is mine the regular way.

    Hoke knows his value to the Werthan family. One day, he gets a job offer from another member of their family who tells him to "name his salary." He doesn't want to work for that family, but he brings the news to Boolie:

    BOOLIE: […] But got you thinking, didn't she?

    HOKE: Well, sir, you might say that.

    BOOLIE: ''Name your salary.''

    HOKE: That's exactly what she said.

    BOOLIE: Well, how does $65 a week sound?

    HOKE: Sounds pretty good, sir. Course, $75 sounds better. It sure does!

    BOOLIE: Beginning this week.

    HOKE: That's mighty nice of you. I sure appreciate this. Thank you. You ever have folks fighting over you?

    BOOLIE: No.

    HOKE: It sure feels good.

    As the years go on and Hoke gains Daisy's trust, he feels more comfortable calling her on some of her more outrageous behavior. One notable confrontation occurs when Miss Daisy won't allow him to pull over and "make water."

    HOKE: How you think I feel having to sit up here and ask you can I go make water, like I'm some child? […] Well I ain't no child Miss Daisy, and I ain't just some back of the neck you look at while you going wherever you got to go. I'm a man, I'm near about seventy years old, and I know when my bladder's full. Now I'm going to get out of this car and go over there and do what I got to do. I'm taking the key with me, too. Now that's all there is to it!

    The second confrontation is when Daisy waits until the last minute to invite him to the Martin Luther King dinner. She doesn't want to go in there with him, but she's ashamed to admit it and Hoke knows it.

    HOKE: Now what you think I am, Miss Daisy?

    DAISY: What do you mean?

    HOKE: The invitation to this dinner came in the mail a month ago. Now, if did be you wanted me to go with you, how come you wait till we in the car on the way before you asked me?

    DAISY: What? All I said was Boolie said you wanted to go.

    HOKE: Next time you want me to go somewhere, you ask me regular.

    As hurt as he is, he still offers to help her to the door. He's never vindictive. Every time Hoke pushes the boundaries of his relationship with Miss Daisy, he nudges her further along the way to recognizing her own intolerance.

    Friend Till the End

    It's Hoke who's there when Daisy has her first episode of confusion and agitation that signals the onset of her dementia. He's not sure how to best handle it, but he does a great job of calming her down and letting Boolie know what happened.

    HOKE: Miss Daisy, now there ain't nothing wrong with you! Your mind done took a turn this morning. You'll snap back if you let yourself.

    DAISY: I can't! I can't!

    HOKE: You're a lucky old woman.

    DAISY: No! It's all a mess now, and I can't do anything about it.

    HOKE: Now look at you. You're rich, you're well for your time. You got folks who care about what happens to you.

    The conversation ends with Daisy telling Hoke he's her best friend. Hoke keeps visiting Daisy even after she's moved the retirement home. It's a hassle for him to get there since he can't drive either anymore, but he still comes when he can. They share old jokes and commiserate about getting old. Slays us every time.

    Although the "magical N****" usually meets a terrible fate, Hoke is actually doing okay at the end of the film. He has a successful family. He's still healthy. The credits roll, but we know that he'll get to go home with his grandchildren.

  • Boolie (Dan Aykroyd)

    Who Ya Gonna Call?

    We can't imagine that Boolie Werthan's driver's license says "BOOLIE" on it, but we don't know him by any other name. He's Miss Daisy's only son, a successful Atlanta businessman. Even as a Jew, he's been accepted by the business community. In fact, he's elected the Businessman of the Year in 1966. He's married, but doesn't want children, although we're never told why.

    Boolie's primary emotional state seems to be exasperation. He's got an impossible-to-please mother and has the miserable job of telling her that she can't drive anymore; he knows how fiercely independent she is:

    BOOLIE: You backed the car into the Pollacks' yard.

    DAISY: You should have let me keep my LaSalle. It wouldn't have behaved this way.

    BOOLIE: Mama, cars don't behave. They are behaved upon. You demolished that Chrysler by yourself.

    DAISY: Think what you want. I know the truth.

    BOOLIE: The truth is you just cost the insurance company $2,700. You're a terrible risk. Nobody will issue you a policy now.

    DAISY: You're just saying that to be hateful.

    Boolie ends up constantly running interference between Daisy and Hoke, but his mother's not the only difficult woman in Boolie's life. He's got a social climbing wife trying to be something she's not. She celebrates Christmas, hangs out with her Christian friends, and tries to join exclusive clubs restricted to Jews. He doesn't hear the end of it from Daisy, who thinks that Boolie's under Florine's thumb.

    BOOLIE: Don't start up with me, Mama. I can't go to Mobile with you. I have to go to New York for a convention. The convention starts Monday.

    DAISY: And I know what else I know.

    BOOLIE: Leave Florine out of this. She ordered the tickets eight months ago.

    DAISY: I'm sure "My Fair Lady" is more important than your relatives. Those Christians will be impressed.

    Boolie spends a fair amount of time calming Florine down. Back in the day, they might have called him "henpecked."

    Boolie loves his mama, but you get the impression that she's more of a pain in the butt to him than anything else. He's got her best interests at heart, but he doesn't really give her the time and affection she gets from Hoke. He's paying Hoke not only to drive Miss Daisy, but to keep her company. He's a very busy guy.

    Boolie's family has deep roots in Atlanta. His grandfather started the business in the 1890s. His community role as a successful businessman and prestigious citizen puts a lot of pressure on him to conform. So much pressure that he compromises his principles when it comes to his views on segregation. As much as he'd like to hear Martin Luther King speak, he refuses to go. He's worried about how people would see it:

    BOOLIE: I want to go! You know how I feel about him.

    DAISY: Of course, but Florine…

    BOOLIE: Florine has nothing to do with it. I still have to do business here.

    DAISY: I see. Werthan Bag will go out of business if you attend the King dinner.

    BOOLIE: Not exactly. But a lot of men I do business with wouldn't like it. They might snicker a little. Call me Martin Luther Werthan behind my back. Maybe I wouldn't hear about certain meetings at the Club. Old Jack Raphael at Ideal Mills, he's a New York Jew instead of a Georgia Jew. All the really smart ones come from New York, don't they? Some might throw their business to Jack instead of old Martin Luther Werthan. I don't know. Maybe it wouldn't happen. But sometimes that's the way things work.

    It's hard to know what's worse: being a racist, or having to act like one because of fear of the consequences of appearing tolerant. Well, being a racist is worse, but the other is just plain pathetic. It's particularly sad in Boolie's case, because from what we see of him he's a very decent guy. He treats Hoke with respect, gratitude, and fairness. He's an attentive son and husband and a hard-working, humble businessman. Peer pressure is a killer.

  • Florine (Patti Lupone)

    Boolie's wife Florine Werthan is a social climber—and how.

    We don't see much of her; what we learn about her mostly comes from Daisy's observations. Even though Florine's Jewish, she tries hard to assimilate into Christian southern culture. She even celebrates Christmas, much to the chagrin of her mother-in-law. Most of her friends are Christian.

    BOOLIE: Goin' to the Andersons for a dinner party.

    DAISY: This is her idea of heaven on earth, isn't it?

    BOOLIE: What?

    DAISY: Socializin' with Episcopalians.

    Daisy knows this is hopeless—Florine's Christian friends won't ever really accept her no matter how many civic clubs she joins.

    DAISY: If I had a nose like Florine, I wouldn't say "Merry Christmas" to anybody. […] The Garden Club this, the Junior League that. As if they'd give her the time of day. She'd die before she fixed a glass of iced tea for the Temple sisterhood.

    Florine's pretty excitable, and tends to pop off at her servants; Boolie steps in to calm her down and we get the impression that this isn't the first time:

    FLORINE: Do you have any idea what it takes to give a Christmas reception? It takes an eye for detail. I told you a million times, Katie Bell, write it down! More I cannot do! (To Boolie) We're out of coconut.

    BOOLIE: I'm sure we can manage.

    FLORINE: I told her.

    KATIE BELL: But you didn't write it down!

    FLORINE: I don't need to stand and listen to excuses on Christmas. You figure out how to serve ambrosia to 50 people without coconut. I give up!

    BOOLIE: Don't worry, Katie Bell. It's not quite the end of the world.

    Driving Miss Daisy playwright and screenwriter Alfred Uhry described Florine as embodying his own experience of growing up Jewish in the south, where "being Jewish was some sort of defect you had to overcome […]. So I grew up with a chip on my shoulder, wishing that I could have, as I said in another one of my plays, 'kissed my elbow and turned into an Episcopalian'" (source).

  • Idella (Esther Rolle)

    Maid in America

    Idella is like an older version of Florida, the maid Esther Rolle played in the hit '70s TV shows Good Times and Maude. She fills the stereotypical, uh, rolle of sassy black maid, gently teasing Daisy for not letting Boolie hire a driver, when she says, "I think you ain't got the sense God gave a lemon."

    She knows how Daisy can be, though. When she first meets Hoke, she tells him:

    IDELLA: I wouldn't be in your shoes if the sweet Lord Jesus came down and asked me Himself.

    Miss Daisy is nicer to Idella than many white folks are to their maids. Florine yelling at her maid is one notable contrast. However, Daisy never breeches the line between the owner of the house and the help. As friendly as they get, they always eat separately.

    Idella dies suddenly while watching her beloved soap operas and shelling peas. Daisy's devastated by Idella's death and commiserates with Hoke about how nobody could make coffee like Idella.