Erikson and Goffman on American Identity Essay

Published: 2021-06-29 01:54:34
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Category: Society

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When foreigners think of America, they think of McDonald’s, the Statue of Liberty, Hollywood film stars, and the list goes on.
In terms of Americans, people associate Texans with cowboy boats, Californians with surfboards, and New Yorkers with a snobbish grin on their face. It is true that all these things represent America in one way or another, but what exactly is American identity? Erikson’s analysis on American identity has drawn attention to four topics: Mom, adolescent, boss, and machine. He links all four topics together by using the myth of John Henry Hero. Goffman, on the other hand, develops dramaturgical analysis to understand human behaviors. He sees men as actors with different roles and these actors have to perform to different audiences.
Even though Erikson’s approach and Goffman’s approach to understanding human identity are very different, both of them consider American identity changes over time because of the change in environment. John Henry Hero is a representation of cowboys. Cowboy is a unique product form American culture. When people think about cowboys, they think of a carefree, independent white male, just like the ones on Marlboro advertisements. The birth and death of John Henry, as Erikson analyzes, gives two fundamental factors of American identity at the cowboy period: abandonment of and by parents, and rejections to intimate feelings.
Abandonment comes from Momism. A Mom is “a certain dangerous type of mother” (Erikson, P. 289) that creates a mental or physical barrier for her children to live with. Erikson gives several examples on how parents can let their children down based on the John Henry myth.
First, there are the expectations that parents want their children to achieve. In John Henry’s. . y, namely asserted by the church and politics instead. Also, role diffusion in the adolescent and the increase in automation and autocrats in the society contributes significantly to the change in social surroundings, which results in the transformation of identity.
Goffman employs the dramaturgical approach and describes how an individual, in different “stages,” will have to perform according to a script for his social role and try to convince his audience about his role. Goffman notes that there are times where individuals will have to work together as teams in order to convince the same audience. Nonetheless, these teams change as the stage changes. Therefore, as a conclusion, American identity changes through time as the environment changes – foreigners may very likely to think of America based on the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal instead of the Statue of Liberty!

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