Goffman’s Presentation of the Self

Table of Content

            Ervin Goffman is known for his dramaturgical conception of society. He viewed society as a theatrical stage where people play as actors and actresses. In his sociological perspective, Goffman deemed a person’s context is his own stage. His context is may be his house, office and even his own bedroom. These contexts that a person is immersed are different social settings. “Interaction is viewed as a “performance,” shaped by environment and audience, constructed to provide others with “impressions” that are consonant with the desired goals of the actor” (Goffman, 1959).

Being immersed in a particular social setting, a person is always wearing a mask. The mask signifies the personality that a person presents himself to others. In every social setting or stage of life, there are always the audiences that a person wants to reveal himself with. These audiences are the other persons that surround the actor in a particular stage. A person as an actor inside a theater of life is always understood and perceived as always a part of a particular stage or particular social situation or context. The actor simply cannot be detached from the situation or stage he is immersed.

            Every person wears a particular mask of his own. To further illustrate the perspective of Goffman, let us examine a bank teller who wears a mask of a polite teller as immersed in the context of a bank. The social identity as a teller is associated with the “front”. The “front is the individual’s performance in which the must do consistently to convince the audience of the persona he portrays as a polite teller. The “front’s” actions are controlled by the actor in order to convey the desired particular image he wants to inculcate to the audience.

            Therefore, a person’s life is a life lived in different contexts and everyday is a process of constantly revealing to an audience a particular image that a person would want to be perceived- the self. Hence, life is like a theater where people act like actors in attaining social identity.


Goffman, E. (1959). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Garden City, New York: Doubleday.


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