As a theorist, Erving Goffman focuses ondramaturgy, which is the basis of his 1959 work, “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.” Dramaturgy, as describedby Goffman and his theory, is the general idea that we as individuals navigateour lives in relation to how others see us, as if we are all performers on astage. His theory of dramaturgy consists of five key concepts – self,impression management, definition of the situation, front and backstage.Goffman addresses the self as a generalidea of who one is, based on individual presentation in any given scene, orsituation. Impression management consists of the conscious and unconsciousefforts one uses to influence how others perceive them.
This is accomplished byregulating and controlling information while interacting with others in anattempt to manipulate the impression one has on others. Definition of thesituation is the basis of how individuals understand the social context inwhich they are performing, providing expectations of how to behave and howothers will behave. The front is the aspect of one’s performance that providessituational context to those who would be considered part of the audience. Thisfront stage behavior is essentially how one acts while being watched orobserved in a public setting, such as work or school. Goffman splits thisconcept into two separate parts – the setting and the personal front. Thesetting is made up of props and scenery, which consist of objects one uses todecorate or frame the situation in order to influence others’ perceptions. Thepersonal front involves identifying characteristics that make it possible for aperson to appear before others in a certain way.
Some examples of thesecharacteristics include age, sex, race, speech, facial expressions, clothing,etc. Individuals often alter certain aspects of their front in order to suitthe situation and the audience. Backstage, in contrast to the front, is theperformance one reserves for situations in which they can let their guard downand be themself. This aspect of the performance frees individuals from theexpectations and norms that shape everyday behavior when performing on thefront stage (Appelrouth and Edles, 2016).This dramaturgy exemplified in Goffman’stheory can be applied to my everyday life by analyzing each central conceptdiscussed above. The self, as discussed by Goffman, is who I am in any scene Iam presented.
Impression management is evident in what I say in certaincontexts versus others, such as how I present myself in class or at sororityevents or at home with my family. I do not really speak much in any classes,and when I do, I make sure I present myself in a way that is acceptable forthat setting. When at sorority events, I am more open and outgoing because I amsurrounded by strong women whom I feel more comfortable around. At home with myfamily, I can be myself more, but there are still certain aspects of my collegelife I refrain from mentioning for varying reasons. Impression management ishow I present myself in these different settings as a way of influencingothers’ impressions of myself.
This is affected by the definition of thesituation, or the way in which I can know what is expected of myself as well asothers. For example, classroom behavior is essentially understood without anystudents needing to be taught not to speak out of turn or disrupt the class.My front, as defined by Goffman, is how Iintentionally present myself in order for others to define the situation. The”expressive equipment” employed in my personal front as well as the setting ofmy interactions heavily impact how others view me as well as the situation athand. Except for very certain situations (i.
e. front of a classroom for apresentation), the setting I typically conduct myself in does not consist ofmany props. However, unless I am in an important and specific setting such as ababysitting job, I am typically smoking a cigarette and a lot of peopleidentify me with that single prop. As for my personal front, my choice ofclothes varies depending on setting as well. If I have a meeting with aprofessor, a presentation to give in class, or a sorority event, I tend todress more formal than when I go to class or simply hang out with friends. Someaspects of my personal front that I cannot manipulate based on the setting aremy sex, my age, my speech patterns, and my facial expressions – or at least myresting facial expression.
Many people form opinions rather quickly based onthe facts that I am female, I am young (most people I encounter assume I amyounger than I am), I have a slightly southern accent (this comes off as a signof unintelligence to a lot of people, even in professional settings), and Ihave what is known as a ‘resting bitch face.’ These are all part of how Ipresent myself and how others perceive me, and while it is not possible toentirely change these parts of myself, I can alter them in small ways in orderto affect how others see me.These defining features of my ‘front’contrast with my ‘backstage’ behavior, or what I do and how I act when othersare not around to observe. For example, I wear makeup and a bra and pants whenI leave this backstage setting, all of which I avoid while I am in my home orother very comfortable settings where I can be myself. I do not have to alterany aspects of my appearance or how I present myself when I am backstage,allowing me to feel more relaxed.Dramaturgy and the central conceptsdefined in Goffman’s The Presentation ofSelf in Everyday Life are relevant and applicable to the lives ofindividuals even after over sixty years have passed since its publishing.
Byunderstanding these concepts and recognizing their presence in everyday life,individuals can learn to control things such as impression management and frontstage behavior, which can improve everyday interactions as well as a generalknowledge of others’ behaviors.