Study Guide

Driving Miss Daisy

Driving Miss Daisy Summary

After backing her car over a hedge into the neighbor's yard in the tamest car accident scene on celluloid (where's Michael Bay to throw in some explosions when you need 'em?), 72-year-old Miss Daisy Werthan, a Real Widow of Atlanta, finds herself without a car. Her son, Boolie, who has no desire to see the citizens of Atlanta diving away from his mom's Chrysler screaming down the street like a stray missile, buys her a new car and hires her a driver: a black man named Hoke Colburn.

Miss Daisy doesn't like him.

To be fair, she doesn't seem to like anyone. But she's extra salty toward Hoke, snapping at him over the most innocuous offenses, like talking to her maid, Idella, or dusting her lightbulbs.

No, that isn't a euphemism.

She won't let him drive her anywhere, not even to the Piggly Wiggly. When Daisy needs groceries at the Piggly Wiggly, she takes the trolley to the Piggly Wiggly, and carries her shopping bags all the way home from the Piggly Wiggly. We just like saying "Piggly Wiggly."

One day, while Miss Daisy walks to the Piggly Wiggly, Hoke follows her in the car. She relents, getting into the backseat and allowing him to drive her to the Piggly Wiggly. (Okay, we'll stop saying Piggly Wiggly now.) Her stubborn façade is beginning to crack. They hit a few detours, like when Miss Daisy accuses Hoke of stealing a can of salmon. But there's nothing fishy about it. He ate it, and he replaces it. She's ashamed. From then on, they're on the road to friendship despite the differences in their social class.

Over the years, Daisy and her dusty bulbs warm to Hoke. She helps the illiterate man get hooked on phonics, and he drives her to a birthday party all the way down yonder in Mobile, Alabama. Their road trip crosses a few speed bumps. First, they're briefly stopped by racist cops in Alabama. Then, almost late to Daisy's brother's party, she won't let Hoke stop to "make water." Tired of being treated as less than human, he pulls the car over and heads into the woods. She's ashamed again. Maybe she's starting to understand that he isn't just her servant, but he's a person too?

Not quite.

They continue to live their separate-but-not-quite-equal lives. Idella dies and they attend her funeral service. Boolie gives Hoke a raise. Hoke attempts to identify with Daisy when her Jewish temple is bombed, but she still thinks that the attack on her temple and the story he tells—about his childhood friend's father being lynched—are two totally different things.

Daisy thinks she's enlightened and unprejudiced. She attends a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., and insults Hoke when she sort-of asks if he wants to go on the way there. Offended, he tells her that she may "talk about things changing, [but] they ain't changed all that much." When Dr. King's speech rails against good people who sit back and allow blacks to be mistreated, Daisy feels—you guessed it—ashamed.


Soon, things do change for Daisy. She begins a descent into dementia, thinking she's a schoolteacher again. After Hoke comforts her, she takes his hand and tells him that he's her best friend. She's eventually put in an old folks' home, where Hoke visits her a couple years later with Boolie.

At the home, Hoke sits with Daisy and feeds her a slice of pumpkin pie. She seems happy to be in the company of her BFF, and she fondly remembers the time when he first drove her in the red Hudson automobile.

  • Scene 1

    Scene 1

    • An elderly woman puts on a fancy hat as if she's going to the Kentucky Derby.
    • But she's just going to the Piggly Wiggly. You have to be fancy to shop at a grocery store with that name.
    • She tells her maid, Idella, that she's off to the market, and she walks out the door.
    • She gets into the driver's seat of her car, and with nice lacy gloves turns the key in the ignition.
    • Then she floors it backwards, down the driveway, and into a hedge.
    • Looks like Miss Daisy can't drive herself.
    • A truck tows Miss Daisy's car from the ditch where she left it.
    • The whole town gathers to gawk at the spectacle.
    • But Daisy hides inside.
  • Scene 2

    Scene 2

    • Miss Daisy's son tells her it's a miracle she's safe.
    • She's jarring some homemade pickles, and she blames the car.
    • Her son tells her it wasn't the car's fault; it was hers.
    • He says she'll never get insurance again. Where's Flo from Progressive when you need her?
    • Before he leaves, he says they need to have a serious talk.
    • But she won't listen. She hums a song and returns to her pickles. (And she's in a pickle! Har har har.)
  • Scene 3

    Scene 3

    • Miss Daisy calls a cab to take her to the beauty salon, but they tell her she needs to call two hours ahead.
    • She cancels her appointment and plans on fixing her own hair.
    • Later, Miss Daisy and her friends play mah jongg.
    • They say they'll give her rides until she can get a new car.
    • That evening, her son Boolie arrives dressed as a cowboy. He and his wife are going on a hayride.
    • Miss Daisy isn't going. She has to finish her library book.
    • Boolie offers to return the book, but Miss Daisy says she'll ride the streetcar to the library tomorrow. Does the streetcar have a name? (That's an inside theater joke. Look it up.)
  • Scene 4

    Scene 4

    • At the Werthan Bag & Cotton Co. one of the workers is stuck in the freight elevator.
    • Boolie tells the secretary to call the elevator repair company.
    • But a man shows up and tells the man in the elevator to just "mash up" on the "doohickey."
    • With that technical advice, the elevator works again.
    • The man introduces himself as Hoke Coburn, and he follows Boolie to his office.
    • It seems he's a driver, and he's interviewing to drive for Daisy.
    • Hoke wonders why Miss Daisy isn't hiring for herself, and Boolie says it's a "difficult situation."
    • He says that Hoke would be working for him, so no matter what Miss Daisy says to Hoke, she can't fire him. That's job security.
  • Scene 5

    Scene 5

    • Boolie drives Hoke to Daisy's house.
    • She watches them from the window, and she doesn't look happy.
    • Boolie goes to fetch Daisy and leaves Hoke with Idella, the maid.
    • Idella tells Hoke that she sure is glad she isn't in his shoes.
    • Miss Daisy's in her room, and she doesn't want to come out.
    • He tells her that she's going to have to make the best of it. Doesn't seem like he's giving her a choice.
  • Scene 6

    Scene 6

    • Hoke sits in the kitchen, reads the paper, and chats up Idella.
    • Miss Daisy enters, tells Hoke not to talk to Idella, and leaves.
    • With nothing else to do, Hoke dusts a chandelier. Daisy snaps at him. "Who cares if the bulbs are dusty?"
    • That evening, Idella leaves and Daisy tells her to have a good night.
    • Hoke leaves, and Daisy says, "Good."
    • The next day, Hoke's tending to the flowers, and Daisy tells him to "leave my flower bed alone."
    • He suggests she plant a vegetable garden.
    • "If I want a vegetable garden, I'll plant it myself," she says.
  • Scene 7

    Scene 7

    • Another morning, another bad attitude from Miss Daisy as Hoke tries to make conversation.
    • He tells her that they're running low on coffee and silver polish.
    • Daisy says she'll go to the Piggly Wiggly on the trolley.
    • Hoke offers to drive her, that being his job and all, but she refuses his services.
    • He offers to tag along and carry the grocery bags, but she doesn't want that either.
    • As she walks, Hoke pulls up beside her in the car.
    • She relents and gets in the car. Off to the Piggly Wiggly they go.
  • Scene 8

    Scene 8

    • In the car, Hoke tries to make small talk, but Miss Daisy doesn't want to talk small with him.
    • She also accuses him of speeding because he isn't driving under the speed limit. Driving slow saves on gas, she says.
    • Hoke complains that they're driving so slow they're hardly moving. "Might as well walk to the Piggly Wiggly."
    • But Daisy says she pays for the gas, she decides how slow they drive.
    • Then she starts giving him directions, even though her route isn't efficient. She's like the worst GPS ever.
    • She wants him to turn around, but they're already at the Piggly Wiggly.
    • He parks and they get out of the car. Daisy takes the keys and orders Hoke to wait by the car.
    • While she's in the Piggly Wiggly, Hoke calls Boolie from a nearby payphone.
    • He boasts that he finally got to drive his mama to the store. Only took him six days. "The same time it took the Lord to make the world."
  • Scene 9

    Scene 9

    • At Miss Daisy's home, she doesn't understand why Hoke and the cleaners are "carrying on." There will be no laughing in her house. She's a woman who can say "Piggly Wiggly" without cracking a smile.
    • Hoke drives Daisy to Temple. He waits outside and shines the car.
    • After Temple, she gets in the back seat and orders Hoke to hurry up out of there.
    • In the car, Hoke asks if Miss Daisy is upset at something he's done.
    • She was embarrassed that he parked right in front of the temple. He made her look like "a g.d. fool."
    • She doesn't want anything thinking she's showing off her wealth by having a chauffeur.
  • Scene 10

    Scene 10

    • Miss Daisy calls Boolie and tells him to hurry over.
    • When he arrives at the house, Miss Daisy tells him that Hoke is stealing from her.
    • She found an open can of salmon in the trash can. Cue dramatic music.
    • Boolie tells her she is making a big deal out of a $0.33 can of salmon.
    • But Miss Daisy doesn't want Hoke touching her things.
    • Idella and Hoke arrive while Boolie is still there. He tells Hoke they need to have a little talk.
    • Before the talk, Hoke confesses to eating a can of salmon because the leftover pork chops weren't so hot. And voila, he produces another can to replace it.
    • That settles that. Looks like Hoke can keep his job.
  • Scene 11

    Scene 11

    • Hoke drives Miss Daisy to the cemetery, where she tends her husband's grave.
    • While she's planting flowers at the grave, Hoke tells her it's the third time that month they've visited the grave.
    • She gives him some potted azaleas to put on her friend's husband's grave.
    • But Hoke can't find it, because he can't read.
    • That's crazy. He's always looking at the paper.
    • He admits he's just looking at the pictures.
    • She gives him a little reading lesson, and once he's hooked on phonics, he sets off to find the grave.
    • He leaves the flowers on the right grave and returns to Miss Daisy to carry all her stuff back to the car.
  • Scene 12

    Scene 12

    • It's Christmas.
    • At Boolie's house, his wife is screaming at the maid for not buying coconut.
    • Christmas is ruined! How can she make ambrosia for 50 people?
    • Boolie tells the maid everything will be okay.
    • Hoke and Daisy arrive at the Christmas shindig.
    • Before she goes in, Miss Daisy gives Hoke a present. It's a book on writing.
    • Miss Daisy regretfully enters the party, because as a Jew, she doesn't think they should be throwing Christmas parties.
    • So, Happy Holidays, Miss Daisy.
  • Scene 13

    Scene 13

    • Boolie trades in Miss Daisy's car for a new one and Hoke buys the old one for himself.
    • At home, Daisy waits for Hoke to arrive.
    • She has a suitcase packed, food in a little box, and a present.
    • Hoke arrives 42 minutes early, and Daisy acts like he's late.
    • He helps her pack the car for her visit to her brother for his 90th birthday.
    • Miss Daisy is offended that Boolie and his wife aren't going to Mobile for the supper, but off they go.
  • Scene 14

    Scene 14

    • Hoke parks the car to eat.
    • Miss Daisy talks about her first visit to Mobile, in 1888, for a wedding. She was 12 and in the wedding party.
    • She talks about dipping her hand in the ocean—the Gulf of Mexico to be specific—for the first time.
    • Before they can leave, two white cops stop Hoke about the car.
    • Daisy says it's her car and provides the registration. They ask about her strange last name.
    • She says it's of German derivation.
    • The cops seem disgusted that everything is in legal order. Hoke is only guilty of driving while black.
    • Shaken by the encounter, Hoke drives away. Out of earshot, the police call them a "nigger" and an "old Jew." Welcome to Alabama.
  • Scene 15

    Scene 15

    • Miss Daisy is in a panic that they're on the wrong road. She's the one who can read, but she sure can't read a map.
    • They took a wrong turn back in Opelika and have to go back. Now they're running late.
    • Hoke has to "make water," but Daisy won't let him stop.
    • Too bad. Hoke pulls over. When nature calls, a man has to answer.
    • He chastises her for treating him like a child, then he takes the keys and goes into the woods.
    • Alone in the car, Miss Daisy is scared.
    • She hears footsteps. When did Driving Miss Daisy become Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
    • Oh, it's just Hoke. Everything is fine.
  • Scene 16

    Scene 16

    • Looks like Miss Daisy made it to the party.
    • Boolie calls to talk to her and wish Uncle Walter a happy birthday.
    • Uncle Walter blows out his candles, and everyone claps.
    • Hoke watches, but he's with the maid, separate from everyone else.
  • Scene 17

    Scene 17

    • At the cotton factory, Hoke goes to talk to Boolie. Hoke tells Boolie that Boolie's cousin is trying to hire him away.
    • Boolie offers Hoke a raise. A whole $65 a week.
    • "$75 sounds better," says Hoke.
    • Boolie admires Hoke for bargaining, and agrees to the pay increase.
  • Scene 18

    Scene 18

    • Daisy and her gal pals play mah jongg until Miss Daisy excuses herself.
    • Hoke and Idella are in the kitchen watching a soap opera on TV. Hoke leaves the kitchen to bring cake to Miss Daisy.
    • When he returns, Idella drops her bowl of peas and collapses.
    • Time for the funeral. That was fast.
    • Miss Daisy, her son, and his wife attend the service and listen to the gospel singing.
  • Scene 19

    Scene 19

    • At home, Daisy makes fried chicken. Hoke says she's going to ruin it.
    • She tells him to mind his own business, then she does exactly what he tells her to do anyway.
    • She eats in the dining room by herself, while Hoke eats in the kitchen by himself.
    • The next day, the two garden together.
  • Scene 20

    Scene 20

    • Now it's winter. There's so much snow, it's a shock to see we're still in Georgia.
    • Miss Daisy, with a blanket wrapped around her shoulders, lights a candle to read by.
    • Don't get that magazine too close to the flame, Daisy.
    • Hoke shows up, much to Daisy's surprise.
    • He says he learned how to drive on ice, and he decided to bring her some donuts.
    • She likes it with her coffee, even though the coffee hasn't been the same since Idella passed.
    • Miss Daisy says "Idella was lucky," but she doesn't elaborate. Lucky for dying quickly instead of getting old and sick, we guess.
    • Hoke makes a fire and stays to keep Miss Daisy company.
    • She says he can eat anything he wants out of the icebox. Whoa. What a change since he ate that can of salmon a few years ago.
    • Boolie calls, and he's shocked to hear his mother say nice things about Hoke.
  • Scene 21

    Scene 21

    • It's 1966, and Boolie has been chosen Man of the Year by the Atlanta Business Council.
    • On the way to taking Miss Daisy to the temple, the car's stuck in traffic, and there's a huge rainstorm.
    • Hoke returns to the car after talking to a policeman, and he tells Miss Daisy she won't make it to Temple that morning.
    • Someone bombed it. (This really happened, except in 1958.)
    • Hoke isn't sure if anyone is hurt. The policeman didn't tell him.
    • Hoke drives Miss Daisy home. She's upset in the backseat.
    • He shares a story with her—the time his childhood friend's daddy was found hanging in a tree.
    • "Flies was all over him," and Hoke threw up.
    • Hoke says it's probably the same kind of folks who bombed the Temple.
    • Miss Daisy cries. She wonders why Hoke told her that story.
    • She says the temple bombing has nothing to do with Hoke's story.
    • She's in denial. She thinks Hoke got it wrong, and that no one bombed the temple. If only she could check Twitter to verify.
  • Scene 22

    Scene 22

    • Boolie visits Miss Daisy, who says she's now nearly 90.
    • She's going to attend a dinner with Martin Luther King, Jr. (That dinner really happened, too.)
    • Boolie won't go because many of his business associates wouldn't approve, and might take their business elsewhere.
    • Boolie suggests that Miss Daisy bring Hoke.
    • She says he wouldn't go, but Boolie tells her to ask him and see.
    • Hoke's in the kitchen trying to read the newspaper.
    • While he's driving her to the dinner, she says that Boolie suggested that Hoke wanted to go to the dinner.
    • But she doesn't exactly ask him if he wants to go.
    • Hoke's offended that Miss Daisy, who had the invitation to the dinner for a month, waited until the night of the dinner to bring this up.
    • Now she's offended that he's offended, and she marches into the ballroom by herself.
    • She sits at a table with an empty seat next to her.
    • Hoke sits in the car and listens to the speech on the radio.
    • Dr. King is talking about all the decent people who sit back and don't do anything about injustice.
    • The camera lingers on Daisy's face as she hears this.
  • Scene 23

    Scene 23

    • Another morning in Daisy's house. But this one is different. The house is quiet when Hoke arrives.
    • He calls her name a few times before she runs down the stairs.
    • Her hair is down, and her makeup isn't on.
    • She's scrambling around looking for the papers she's supposed to grade.
    • But there are no papers because she hasn't been a teacher in decades.
    • Hoke sits her down and tries to calm her.
    • He calls Boolie and tells him what's going on.
    • Upstairs, Miss Daisy is still upset.
    • Hoke tries to soothe her, but nothing he says is working.
    • Miss Daisy asks Hoke if he still has the red car. He says it's been in the junkyard for 15 years.
    • Miss Daisy blurts out, "Hoke, you're my best friend," and she takes his hand. Aww.
    • "Yes'm," he says.
  • Scene 24

    Scene 24

    • Miss Daisy's house is for sale.
    • Someone drives Hoke, for a change, up to the house, past the sign that says the house has been sold.
    • The driver is Hoke's granddaughter, who's 37.
    • He walks through the now-empty rooms of the house. Boolie's there.
    • Boolie says it feels weird to sell the house while Mama's still alive.
    • But she hasn't lived there for two years. It seems she's in a home.
    • Hoke says he visits her occasionally, taking a cab to see her.
    • They get in the car, and Boolie takes Hoke to see her. It's a nice place, as far as old folks' homes go.
    • It's Thanksgiving, and Miss Daisy is puttering about with the help of a walker.
    • She doesn't seem to recognize Hoke or her son. She sits at a table with the two men.
    • As Boolie keeps talking, Miss Daisy interrupts: "Hoke came to see me. Not you."
    • She sends Boolie away so she can be alone with Hoke.
    • The two friends chat, and Hoke helps Miss Daisy eat her Thanksgiving pie.
    • She says it's good.
    • As she munches on her pumpkin pie, she thinks of the car, with Hoke in the driver's seat and herself in the back.
    • We all sob.
    • The end.