Study Guide

Driving Miss Daisy Society and Class

Society and Class

[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.

BOOLIE: What?

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.

DAISY: What?

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.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...