HOKE: Y'all people's Jewish, ain't you?
BOOLIE: Yeah, we are. Why?
HOKE: I'd rather work for Jews. I know folks say they stingy and cheap.
But don't say none of that around me! […] I worked for Judge Harold Stone, a Jewish gentleman. […] Judge Stone was my father's friend.
Hoke's familiar with the stereotypes about Jews, but he doesn't buy them. What this passage shows is that having personal relationships with people is what gets you past stereotypes about them. Judge Stone apparently treated Hoke well. The fact that he was friends with his father shows that the judge himself wasn't prejudiced either. Hoke says that with pride.
DAISY: They all take things, you know. […] They're like children in the house. If they want something, they just take it.
Miss Not Prejudiced doesn't seem to understand how offensive these vague generalizations about an entire race or class can be.
DAISY: Pull in here. Wait a minute. Give me the keys. Stay right here by the car.
Daisy doesn't trust Hoke not to run away with the car. You know those servants…
POLICEMAN: Boy, what do you think you're doing with this car? […] What's this name? Wertheran? […] Never heard of that one before. What kind of name is that?
The Alabama police officer only stops Hoke because he is black. The fact that he can harass Miss Daisy for being Jewish is a bonus for this jerk.
POLICEMAN: An old nigger and an old Jew woman taking off down the road together. That is one sorry sight.
This is the most shocking line in the movie because it's so blatantly racist and intolerant. But it makes you realize that lots of people have these attitudes; they're just more subtle about it.
HOKE: I got to be excused. I got to go make water.
DAISY: You should have thought of that at the service station.
HOKE: A colored can't use the toilet at none of these service stations, Miss Daisy. You know that.
Segregation was alive and well in Alabama at the time. It's pretty shocking that an educated woman like Daisy "forgets" that Hoke couldn't use the public facilities at the gas station.
HOKE: Somebody done bombed the temple.
Daisy experiences prejudice of her own when her Jewish temple is bombed. She's so shaken up she refuses to believe it at first. The 1958 Atlanta temple bombing, the fourth synagogue bombing in Atlanta in just over a year, was carried out by white supremacists who objected to the temple's Rabbi, Jacob Rothschild, advocating desegregation.
HOKE: I remember one time back down there in Macon. Lord, I couldn't have been more than 10 or 11 years old, I reckon. I had this friend named Porter. One day, there his daddy was, hanging in a tree. […] Had his hand tied behind him. Flies was all over him. I tell you, I threw up right where I was standing. You go on and cry.
DAISY: I'm not crying. Why did you tell me that story?
HOKE: Lord, I don't know, Miss Daisy. That mess back there put me in mind of it.
DAISY: Ridiculous! The temple has nothing to do with that!
HOKE: Yes, ma'am, if you say so.
Hoke attempts to share a tragic memory of of his own with Miss Daisy to let her know he understands the shock of a horrific act of prejudice and hate. He tells her that the people who bombed the temple are the same ones behind the lynchings of blacks. It's difficult to tell if she's being callous because she's still in shock, or if she really believes what she says. Regardless, she totally disregards Hoke's pain.
BOOLIE: Can I ask you something? When did you get so fired up about Martin Luther King? You weren't before.
DAISY: Why, Boolie! I've never been prejudiced in my life, and you know it.
We've seen a lot more of Miss Daisy at this point, and she hasn't really changed. She can still talk the talk, but she has yet to walk the walk. We like to think that Daisy's relationship with Hoke is making her rethink some of her attitudes.
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 reguIar.
Like we said, Daisy can talk the talk. Here, Hoke forces Daisy to confront her discomfort in taking him to the dinner. It's one thing to hear Dr. King speak; it's another to invite your black friend to the dinner. That's out of her comfort zone, and Dr. King's speech makes her even more uncomfortable.
HOKE: You know, I think you're the best widow in the state of Georgia.
Hoke compliments Daisy for taking such good care of her husband's grave. There they are at the cemetery together, planting flowers and looking after Mr. Sig. Daisy returns the compliment by assuring Hoke that he can learn to read and giving him his first lesson. It's a friendly scene for sure, but Hoke's only there because he drove her there.
DAISY: I was thinking about the first time I went to Mobile. It was Walter's wedding. 1888.
HOKE: 1888! You were nothing but a little bitty thing.
DAISY: I was 12. We went on the train. Oh, I was so excited. I'd never been in a wedding party. And I'd never seen the ocean. Papa said it was the Gulf of Mexico, not the ocean, but it was all the same to me. I asked Papa if it was all right for me to dip my hand in the water. He laughed because I was so timid. And then I tasted the salt water on my fingers. Isn't that a silly thing to remember?
HOKE: No sillier than what most folks remember.
Another friendly exchange. Daisy confides a memory that we sense she might not have ever shared with anyone before. You can see their relationship deepening, at least from Daisy's side.
HOKE: Invitation to this here dinner come 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 and on the way before you asked me? […] Well, next time you want me to go somewhere, you ask me regular.
Even though Miss Daisy and Hoke are friendly, you can see the limits of the relationship. She's still not ready to cross that line of being seen with a black man in public as an equal, regardless of her warm feelings for him.
HOKE: I figured your stove was out, so I stopped by the Krispy Kreme. I know you got to have your coffee in the morning.
Bringing someone Krispy Kreme donuts is the best thing a friend can ever do. Ever.
DAISY: I can fix her biscuits. And we both know how to make her fried chicken. But nobody can make Idella's coffee.
Hoke and Daisy are grieving together about Idella, another person who Daisy's had a long, long relationship with. She was totally comfortable with Idella, but Idella was only at her home because she worked for her.
DAISY: Eat anything you want out of the icebox.
My my, Miss Daisy has come a long way. She's offering Hoke food as if he were a guest. Before, she didn't want him around because he'd eat her stuff.
DAISY: Stay home, Boolie. Hoke is here with me.
BOOLIE: How'd he manage that?
DAISY: He's very handy. I'm fine. I don't need a thing in the world.
BOOLIE: Hello? I must have the wrong number. I never heard mama say loving things about Hoke.
DAISY: I didn't say I love him. I said he was handy.
Miss Daisy wouldn't ever admit that she loved Hoke, but she clearly does. You can see that she thinks of Hoke as her best caregiver; he feels secure with him.
HOKE: Now, how you know how I can see less'n you can look out my eyes? Hmm?
Hoke gives Miss Daisy a lesson in empathy about, oh, eighty years too late. But if she tried to put herself in his shoes sooner, she might have understood him many years ago.
DAISY: Hoke. […] You're my best friend.
HOKE: Go on now, Miss Daisy.
DAISY: No, really. You are. You are.
HOKE: Yes, ma'am.
Daisy's clinging to Hoke for comfort when she's confused and terrified. She realizes how much she needs him and calls him her best friend. Why does he say "Go on now"? Is he trying to reassure her that she has lots of friends? Is he not feeling it himself? Is he being cautious?
DAISY: Is Boolie paying you still?
HOKE: Every week.
DAISY: How much?
HOKE: Now that's between him and me.
DAISY: Highway robbery…
HOKE: It sure is. It sure is.
DAISY: How are you?
HOKE: I'm doing the best I can.
DAISY: Me, too.
HOKE: Well, that's about all there is to it then.
This has got to be one of the sweetest, most tear-jerking scenes onscreen. Hoke visits Daisy in the retirement home, and they go through their old "highway robbery" routine and commiserate about getting old and getting by. Daisy fumbles with her fork trying to eat her pie, and Hoke helps to feed her. Roger Ebert called this "a luminous final scene in which we are invited to regard one of the most privileged mysteries of life, the moment when two people allow each other to see inside" (source). It sure looks like old friends.
DAISY: It was the car's fault.
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.
Daisy's reluctant to give up any of her independence, so she tries to blame her accident on the car, not driver error. We get the feeling that Boolie has been talking down to his mother for a long time, as if he's the parent and she's the child. In this instance, he's right.
HOKE: Say she done gone around the bend a little bit. Well now, that'll happen as they get on.
Hoke assumes Daisy can't drive anymore because she's getting senile. This line is a bit of foreshadowing of the end of the movie, when Miss Daisy does develop dementia. But at this moment, Boolie assures Hoke that it's not that she's "not all there." She's "too much there."
DAISY: Idella was lucky.
Daisy's already thinking about getting old and losing your capacities. She thinks Idella was lucky because she died quickly, without a lengthy illness or gradual deterioration. That's the fear of all elderly people.
DAISY: Find those papers, I told you! It's all right if you moved them. I won't be mad at you. But I've got to get to school. I'II be late. Who will take care of my class? They'll be all alone. Oh, God! I do everything wrong!
Daisy exhibits a sudden episode of confusion and agitation. She remembers Hoke, but she thinks she's a teacher who misplaced her students' papers, and she's panicking. This is our first look at her developing dementia.
HOKE: Now look at you. You rich. You're well for your time. You got folks who care about what happen to you.
DAISY: I'm being trouble. I don't want to be trouble to anybody.
She doesn't snap at him this time for calling her rich, so you know things are bad off. Daisy's still with it enough to know that something is seriously wrong. The thought of being a burden to others is devastating to her. That's another big fear for elderly folks.
DAISY: How are you?
HOKE: I'm doing the best I can.
DAISY: Me, too.
HOKE: Well, that's about all there is to it then.
Hoke and Daisy bond over the issues of getting older. They're both pretty philosophical about it—that's just the way it is, and you make the best of it and don't waste time dwelling on it. This scene's an 11 on the tearjerker scale.
[Miss Daisy puts her hat on.]
The very first thing we see in the film is Miss Daisy putting her hat on. It lets us know that she is a woman who values her appearance and the way she fits into society as a proper southern lady.
RANDOM WHITE WOMAN: Back to work.
This nameless extra says this to her black help, giving us another bit of context for the movie. It's a social class where white people employ black people and they're expected to remain separate.
HOKE: A fine, rich Jewish lady like yourself ain't go not business draggin' herself up the steps of no trolley carryin' no grocery store bags.
Hoke's job is to serve Miss Daisy; because that's the way society is, he doesn't question it. In fact, he wants to do the best job he can, and that involves helping Miss Daisy keep up her appearances and act like the rich lady she is.
DAISY: You all must have plans tonight.
BOOLIE: The Ansleys' dinner party.
DAISY: This is her idea of heaven on earth.
DAISY: Socializing with Episcopalians.
Daisy herself grew up relatively poor, but entered the upper class via marriage to a successful businessman. She isn't rich like aristocratic-old-south rich, but she can afford to drive a luxury car and hire a maid. But even the Werthans face class limits. Boolie and his wife have to downplay their Jewishness to admitted to the elite of Atlanta society. Daisy thinks that's never gonna happen anyway.
DAISY: You had the car parked right in front of the front door of the temple, like I was the Queen of Romania. […] 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. I have done without plenty of times.
Daisy's adamant about her humble beginnings and hates to be reminded that she's rich. She's proud and independent and doesn't want people to think she's just been handed all her wealth. For a refined southern lady, it's just unseemly to flash your wealth around like Florine does.
DAISY: What are you talking about?
HOKE: I'm talking about I can't read, ma'am.
HOKE: I can't read, Miss Daisy.
This exchange says a lot about social class differences in the segregated south. Hoke didn't have many educational opportunities. The fact that Daisy doesn't criticize him or humiliate him for being illiterate—instead, she teaches him how to read—suggests she understands the social and economic circumstances that prevented him from getting an education. As we all know, education is dangerous; it makes you want a better life. That's why blacks had to attend inferior schools, if they could go to school at all.
DAISY: You got the chicken too close together and the fire is too high. Mind your business.
HOKE: It's your chicken.
DAISY: Thank you, Hoke.
HOKE: Now you enjoy it.
It's a little shocking that after sharing their feelings about Idella's death, Miss Daisy and Hoke still eat apart. She won't break the custom that a person and her help don't eat at the same table. That's another thing that makes the last scene so poignant—Daisy eats her pie sitting with Hoke.
HOKE: Judge Stone was my father's friend.
Hoke worked for a Jewish judge before Boolie offered him a job. In fact, the judge was a friend of Hoke's father—an important guy being friends with a poor black man. Northern Jews were very involved in the civil rights movement in the '50s and '60s, but southern Jews had to keep a low profile to avoid antagonizing their neighbors and fellow business owners. (That was why Boolie chose not to go to Dr. King's speech even though he admired him.) Jews who spoke out against desegregation could have their businesses boycotted or their houses of worship bombed. (Source)
BOOLIE: I guess you know who this is.
This is how Boolie introduces Hoke and Idella, almost as if he thinks all black people know one another. We're not given any information that suggests these two might have been acquainted.
BOOLIE: "Them." Afford "them." You sound like Governor Talmadge.
Boolie takes issue with how his mother refers to her household help. At least she's not saying "those people." Btw, Talmadge was the segregationist governor of Georgia in the 1930s and '40s.
BOOLIE: He stole a can of salmon?
DAISY: Here it is! I knew there was something funny. They all take things, you know, so I counted. […] I leave him plenty of food every day. I tell him exactly what it is. They're like children. If they want something, they just take it!
Ugh. No comment necessary.
HOKE: Miss Daisy, if I was to ever get my hands on what you got...shoot, I'd shake it around for everyone in the world to see. Never gonna understand some white folks.
The disconnect between the things Miss Daisy says and the way she actually acts is very confusing to Hoke. He can't understand why she'd disavow her wealth. He'd be proud to be rich and have a fine house.
BOOLIE: 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. You know, Jack Raphael down at Ideal Mills, he's a New York Jew instead of a Georgia Jew. And, the really smart ones come from New York don't they? Some of the men might throw their business to Jack instead of ol' Martin Luther Werthan. Maybe I might not hear about certain lunch meetings at the Commerce Club. I don't know, maybe it wouldn't happen. But, sometimes that's just how things work.
As a Southern businessman, Boolie can't attend the Martin Luther King dinner because of its potential negative effect on his business. Boolie chooses business over ethics. You get the feeling he would have liked to hear Dr. King speak. Sad, sad, sad.
POLICEMAN: What's this name? Wertheran?
POLICEMAN: Never heard that one before. What kind of name is it?
DAISY: It's of German derivation.
POLICEMAN: German derivation. Thank you, ma'am. An old nigger and an old Jew woman riding down the road together. Now that is one sorry sight.
Notice how Daisy has to disguise her family name as "German." She doesn't fool the policemen, though. This is a very revealing scene in that it shows what are racist and anti-Semitic attitudes even among law enforcement. How can anyone expect to get justice?
DAISY: I think it's wonderful the way things are changing.
HOKE: Talk about things changing. They ain't changed all that much.
By this point, it's a little unbelievable that Miss Daisy is so oblivious to the irony of her statement. She's just refused to invite Hoke in to hear Dr. King's speech. It would be nice if Hoke could answer Miss Daisy to her face, but he speaks when he's outside the car and she's still inside. Progress in civil rights looked a whole lot different to African Americans than to whites in the 1960s.