The work by Erving Goffman The presentation of self in everyday life was published in 1959, but it remains one of the essential books in sociology. The author uses the concept of theater to show how people interact with each other in daily life. Goffman portrayed people as actors, each playing a specific role as occurs in real life. Human beings’ behavior can be compared with theatrical performance: on the stage, actors are aware of the audience and their roles, and they behave accordingly (Goffman, 1956). The same can be applied to real-life experiences: individuals adjust their behavior with social expectations and play specific roles, which depend on the context in which they exist. In the current paper, the summary of the book The presentation of self in everyday life will be provided.
The book is divided into six main parts, which analyze different aspects of the theatrical metaphor Goffman employs to describe social interaction. It includes “performances, teams, regions and region behavior, discrepant roles, communication out of character, and the arts of impression management” (Goffman, 1956, p. 3). The author highlights that the social context affecting our behavior turns any interaction into a specific negotiation process on the meaning of the situation and the roles individuals play in it. Besides, it is essential to understand that people negotiate their functions and actively cooperate with other actors to create those characters (roles). Moreover, Goffman is interested in the nature of social interaction. He concludes that people manage impressions, both active and passive, from other people and allows to choose our behavior and form attitudes.
In conclusion, Erving Goffman, in “The presentation of self in everyday life,” demonstrates the nature and the mechanism of formation of social interaction using theatrical metaphor. People play on the stage and communicate with other ‘actors,’ each playing a particular role. It adjusts an individual’s behavior and creates a specific negotiation process in which people derive meanings and impressions from others and benefit from it accordingly.
Goffman, E. (1956). The presentation of self in everyday life. New York: Anchor Books.