Erving Goffman

Topics: Sociology, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Impression management Pages: 7 (2572 words) Published: November 9, 2008
In the The Presentation of Self In Everyday Life Goffman seeks to show the reader how everyone sets out to present themselves to the world around them, always trying to maintain the role they have selected for themselves, since those whom they meet not only try to decide what role it is you are playing, but also whether or not you are competent to play that role. More significantly, impression management is a function of social setting. Erving Goffman portrays everyday interactions as strategic encounters in which one is attempting to sell a particular self-image--and, accordingly, a particular definition of the situation. He refers to these activities as face-work. Beginning by taking the perspective of one of the interactants, and he interprets the impact of that person's performances on the others and on the situation itself. He considers being in wrong face, out of face, and losing face through lack of tact, as well as savoir-faire (diplomacy or social skill), the ways a person can at tempt to save face in order to maintain self-respect, and various ways in which the person may harm the face of others through faux pas such as gaffes or insults (209). These conditions occur because of the existence of self presentational rules. These rules, in turn, are determined by how situations are defined. For instance, there is greater latitude in social situations than in task-oriented situations. Situations also dictate available roles and how much self-importance people can sustain. Herewith one will try to analyze two situations that reinforce the desired interpretation of self that one wishes to convey. The first performance takes place in the university environment on the first day of school. The second scene takes place at the formal wedding reception among family and friends. Both interactions describe the Goffmanian concepts and schemas that the author uses throughout his book. The first situation is portrayed in the university setting. Among a thousand first year students some will undoubtedly know each other beforehand, but on the whole everyone will be on their own and looking to make friends. Martin is walking proudly to his first class trying to impress everyone. But if Martin was to make a mistake in his self-presentation now, he could take several weeks to recover his credibility. The process of establishing social identity, then, becomes closely allied to the concept of the front, which is described as that part of the individual's performance which regularly functions in a general and fixed fashion to define the situation for those who observe the performance (22). The front acts as a vehicle of standardization, allowing for others to understand the individual on the basis of projected character traits that have normative meanings. As a collective representation, the front establishes proper setting, appearance, and manner for the social role assumed by the actor, uniting interactive behavior with the personal front (27). A student will often act differently when talking to someone in his lecture, than he will with his friends in the bar later that night -the former providing a sense of intimacy, the latter a more public occasion. Goffman discusses the need for belief in the part you are playing, both in terms of the audience, and in terms of the performer himself. For the performance to appear credible the performer himself should believe the performance is genuine; the alternative is have no belief in the performance, to be what Goffman terms a cynic -someone who is deliberately seeking to mislead his audience (18). If the student genuinely believes he is an easy going guy who doesn't worry about work, he may appear sufficiently credible to overcome any of the apparently contradictory evidence of the impression given off. When there is little or no occasion for “dramatizing” the performance the student will always appear unconcerned when the subject of work comes up, to show that work isn't a priority in his...

Bibliography: Goffman, Erving. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York.: Anchor Books, 1959. Word Count: 2513
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