A Reaction to Erving Goffman’s “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life”

Erving Groffman’s “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” presents an interesting view of the daily interactions people encounter. Groffman (1956) compares the aspectof social interaction with the theater. He explains that everyone is just an actor who acts the character he or she wants to portray. Usually, these “characters” are created and personified by people in order to please the “audience” or the people we interact with. With this in mind, Groffman also presents supporting concepts his claim. One of which is the concept of the”front” and “back”. When he talks about the “front” he refers to when an actor is on stage. When an actor is on stage, he or she is usually acting or portraying a different character. On the other hand, the “back” refers to when an actor is in the backstage. In the backstage, actors become relaxed and are able to be themselves instead of being the “character” that pleases an audience. These concepts are just a few of the statements that Groffman talks about in his book.

With some research and light reading about Groffman’s book, I think he makes many interesting points. My biggest concern is that he basically claims that no one will be themselves when there are other people around. Personally, I believe that it is true, but it isn’t something I want to be a reality. If I were to look at how the people around me act, I can say that there are times when the expression they say is different from the expression they give off which is something also stated in the book. The more I try to delve deeper into the meaning and understanding Groffman had come across and wrote about, the more I come to refuse his ideas and concepts. I know that his book is held as an important piece of study and education, but the reality that no one is theirself is a sad reality for me to accept. I know that even I also sometimes alter who I am to be more accepted by the people around me, but there has always been a part of that wants to be accepted for the real me. when I think about how people just put on an “act” in their everyday life, it makes me question how trustworthy can someone really be if they’re not who they say they are. It makes me think if this is really the right way for people to live their lives, constantly putting on a show.

I wonder if there’ll ever come a time when the curtains will drop and the act is finished, and if it does, how was that change made possible. Looking into the book, and reading about these dangerous ideologies has made me more wary of the reality of how we live our lives. I guess to some people, there’s nothing wrong with how things are right now, and I actually think things are fine as they are, for now. I can”t help but imagine a world where all facades have been broken. I don’t know if that world will be better or worse for humanity, but it makes you think whether such a future is actually possible. In the end, it’s all up to the people. If no one’s complaining, then it’s alright I guess.

With regards to Groffman’s work, I have the utmost respect for the man. He was able to think in deeper way than most of us do, and he was able to observe a very crucial truth about how we live. With all that he said, he was still able to remain objective to his study and was able to deliver a profound understanding of how humans live. If we all take time to really understand what it is Groffman had to say, then maybe we too can uncover or simply just notice an underlying truth hidden under our noses the whole time.




The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life – A Summary