Good Example Of Essay On Symbolic Interactionism As A Fundamental Sociological Theory

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Symbolism, Sociology, People, Theory, Behavior, Human, Communication, Interaction

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2021/02/01

Symbolic interactionism is one of the leading paradigms in sociology, which sets the goal of understanding their behavior, and the behavior is perceived as most people understand it. Proponents of this theory believe that each individual has their own interpretation of their actions, behavior in any act of relationships. In such a way people with whom the individual is constantly entering into a relationship, produce their own interpretation of this person’s words and behavior. Therefore, there should be first of all understood what mean actions and words exactly for these people in case they are involved into communication with others.
In order to understand the way how the theory of the symbolic interactionism can be interpreted in a specific context, a good idea is to implement it into the plot of the film “Sound and Fury” that mirrors not only the main concepts of this sociological theory but explains how symbolic interactionism can be connected to other theories. To start with, to estimate how to reflect the theory on the concrete example, it is rational to describe the plot of the film.
This film called “Sound and Fury” is mainly about crossing the inner worlds (possible semantics worlds) of the three brothers and their sister storytellers Caddy - a story of how two brothers Benjy and Quentin loved her and hatred of her brother Jason. The second part of the film, was created as an internal monologue Quentin, stream of consciousness - this is his story ironic echoes the story of Benji - is devoted to the last day of his life before his suicide. Here plays a decisive role symbol of time - hours. Quentin in attempt to break down destroys time (myth), but even without arrows they continue moving further inexorably, taking them closer to death.
Then there appears such a question why then Quentin Compson, a student at Harvard University, the pride of his father, committed a suicide? Love for his sister and burning jealous to her for what she took up with another and then married the first comer, clothed in the paranoid idea of Quentin’s mind that made him commit incest with his sister. In fact, Quentin during the whole story is on the verge of psychosis, but the point of the "I" is not arranged and in one of the possible worlds of the film can be really incestuous relationship took place.
Caddy associate Quentin's death (the same as Eros is inextricably linked with Thanatos - psychoanalysis), he repeats the phrase that Saint Francis of Assisi called the death of his little sister. Both characters - Benjy and Quentin - permanently reside in multiple layers of time. So, Quentin, being in the company of the rich and spoiled student Gerald talks about his female conquests, recalls his meeting with Dalton Ames, seducer Caddy, past and present are confused in his mind, and he shouted: “Did you have a sister?” – and starts beating Gerald
After the suicide of Quentin the story goes to his older brother Jason, all third and fourth parts are devoted to daughter Caddy Quentin. Jason watching her even pursuing her in every way. And the story ends with the fact that Quentin runs away from home with a traveling actor, stealing all his savings.
The influence of symbolism is quite obvious: the erection of the private, turn of the local into general, universal. Moreover, the brightest is the image of dark sides of the human consciousness, the collapse of a sick society. But the overall picture of life, according to the writer, is opposed to despair and hopelessness.
In fact, the plot of the film and the way how the main actors behave can be explained by a number of theories. The founder of the first sociological theory in symbolic interactionism was an American sociologist George Herbert Mead though the term was introduced by his disciple whose name was Herbert Blumer. Mead believed that the social world of a person and mankind is formed by the processes of social interaction, where “symbolic environment” plays a crucial role and which can be realized through two of its main products - gestures and language. Social life depends on a person’s ability to imagine themselves in other social roles, which depends on the ability to internal dialogue.
In the most clear and concise form the main points of the theory of symbolic interactionism have been worked out in H. Blumer’s prominent work called “Symbolic interactionism: Prospects and method”. Other current theories of symbolic interactionism focus on different parts of the theory. Thus, the Chicago school focuses on the implementation process of interaction and interpretation while the worldwide-known School of the University of Iowa is trying to formalize the study and its results, develop procedures for measuring and grading scales, suggesting the idea that the human “I” is relatively stable and unchanging. Another direction of the theory of symbolic interactionism is the “role theory” which influenced a lot the way how theorists of contemporary sociological theories perceive the world itself and particularly certain theories.
Symbolic interactionism is currently considered as the main alternative to functionalism and the theory of social systems (especially in the form in which they evolved Talcott Parsons), which accounted for while the dominant paradigm in American sociology. In addition, this approach was important in sociology as a critique of positivism. Recently salient development in the theory of symbolic interactionism is the classification of the techniques and strategies of communication E. Hoffman. Thus, symbolic interactionism studies the relationship between the individual and society as a process of symbolic communication between social actors. The development of this concept contributed to the analysis of the role of socialization, communication and action. Symbolic interactionism had a significant impact on the sociology of deviant behavior by proposing the concept of the career that is used in studies of criminal behavior. Intercommunicative approach itself is the theoretical basis of the theory sticking labels, stereotypes and stigma research.
In fact, interactionists made a significant contribution to medical sociology as they tried to study the interaction between doctor and patient. Modern symbolic interactionism masses tend to analyze society as formation arising from without - ended transactions of social workers. Symbolic interactionism is often under critics because it does not pay enough attention to various points of the objective limitations of social action. Its origins are connected with the concept of self in the form in which it was developed by Mead, who argued that critical to the self, as a social phenomenon, has reflexivity. Moreover, he supposed that social life depends on the human ability to imagine themselves in other social terms, and that the role of decision depends, in turn, on the human capacity for internal dialogue with them.
Mead resorted to trying to create special theory of human evolution. When asked what distinguishes man from animals and making her personality, Mead points out that the specific person is defined by its lack of a developed system of instincts as key regulators of behavior. That is why man has the ability to invent characters, which is the basis of conscious adaptation to the environment conscious behavior and introspection. The main characteristic of human action is the use of symbols. Mead distinguishes between two forms or two degrees of social action: • the degree of generalization using gestures

• indirect degree of the symbolic communication.

Communicating through gestures is characterized by the fact that it is shortened, turned to the scheme of action for which a separate gesture (movement) can reinstate a whole. Such gestures take on the function of coordinating behavior are prototype language.
Symbolic mediated interaction, ie first interaction through language, characterized in that: • generates about the same reaction when dealing with any individual

• allows you to put yourself in the other;

• allows you to see themselves through the eyes of another person.
The emergence of symbolically mediated interaction Mead explains functionally – as there existed a need to coordinate behavior because they did not not have reliable instincts and anthropologically- the ability of a man to the formation and use of symbols. Significant characters can perform its coordinating function only if they are acquired by the group. The concept of "mother," "father," "good," "bad," and so on. In its sound and meaning a single individual gains these values as a result of which person becomes a member of the society as the samples and learns the rules of group action.
The concept of "meaningful symbol" refers primarily to language. Mead said that in fact partners during intercourse never speak the same language perfectly. As a result, there are often situation misunderstanding or false understanding, leading to disruption of the interaction. These disorders (curvature) may be the correction using communication, that such communication, during which the partners compared the content of concepts used them and produce a common system of values. It follows that a person operates in relation to objects based on the values ​​that it gives them; the values ​​themselves are the product of social interaction and the emerging and changing through their interpretation redefinition.
Society for Mead is a certain set of individuals with whom the individual supports interaction and whose positions whose relationship .ye basis for a self-understanding and planning their own actions. The emergence of social Mead explains ultimately physiological reasons - the need to meet specific needs, especially the needs of food and prolong life. But even meet the physiological needs of the individual "tied" to other people.
Symbolic interactionists distinguish the real and the ideal society, considering them in the light of the breadth and quality of interaction. An ideal society they describe as the universality of norms and involvement in the communication process of all mankind. Background of the ideal society they consider in the space of expanding economic relations, political alliances, universal religions. Together with this, they stress the constructive role of social conflicts.
What is most essential to the development of modern sociology is role-playing masses concept of symbolic interactionism. It is so, because human behavior, according to this concept is conditioned by the structure of its personalities, its social role and perception of the setting called the “socialized another”. Multivariate behavior can be represented as a specific set of socio-typical, well-established patterns of behavior - "roles" that people play in society. According to symbolic interactionism analysis "roles" man gives a foundation for judging not only about her behavior, but also his personality, because its internal impulsivity and normative conflict affects the behavior of any actions.
In addition to the general ideas and peculiarities of the social interaction to which the main theorists pay attention in their works, a significant role is played by symbols and the whole system of symbols which unites all signals and symbols which are introduced as mediators of reaching human’s minds. According to Mead, symbols allow people to become self-conscious beings in order to realize human own individuality. The symbol is thought to be a thing which substitutes something else. Symbolic interactionism influenced the whole course of how not exceptionally sociological theory has been developing, thus let’s recall the works of the philosopher and founder of the semiotics Saussure and the exact example which shows: the word "tree" is a symbol of how people denote object - a tree. As noted by Mead, if people created a concept, they could think of the tree, not even having it in sight. People have learned to think of an object in a symbolic way. Symbolic thought frees people from the limitations which conditionally pursue people during their lives and especially influence the things people see, hear or feel actually.
Unlike lower animals, people live in extremely symbolized universe. This is also truth of the human identity. (Animals, unlike people, do not have a sense of self-awareness.) Each of us is a self-conscious being with the accent on the word “self-conscious” as people are able not only to receive the information itself but digest it as well. And as the result of this process people tend to form their personal opinion concerning various events which happen daily. Moreover, people are able to learn, to "see themselves" from inside, to see ourselves as others see us. When a child begins to use the word "I" to refer to the object (the same or himself) that others call "you", he (she) shows the beginning of self-awareness.
Virtually all interactions between human individuals, according the symbolic interactionists are sharing symbols. Interacting with others, people continuously match the "key" to the behavior in an appropriate specific environment and to the method of interpretation of the intentions of others. Symbolic interactionism directs human attention to the details of interpersonal interaction and how these details are used to fill the content of speech and other behavior. For example, supposing that a man and woman meet on the first date, it becomes obvious that each of them is likely to hold most of the night, studying and thinking more like their relationship and develop or evolve at all. None of them wants to show their intentions very clearly, although each realizes that things are moving. Both are very careful in their behavior, trying to present yourself in a favorable light. However, estimating the fact, each of them will probably seek those other aspects of behavior that could express the true intentions. Complex and subtle process of symbolic interpretation creates interaction of two people.
Those sociologists who support symbolic interactionism generally focus on the interaction of "face to face" situations in everyday life. The work of Erwin Hoffmann was a particularly striking contribution to this type of research, making a fresh approach to teaching which in Mead’s work was “dry” and abstract. In submitting Hoffman and other symbolic interactionists let’s look deeply into the nature of our actions in the daily social life. However, symbolic interactionism criticized because it focuses attention on the excessive details. Symbolic interactionists have always been difficult to deal with large-scale structures and processes - phenomena which most stress two other traditions.
Representatives of symbolic interactionism emphasize that people are social creatures. However, unlike ants, bees, termites and other insects, the leading social life, people almost do not have innate behaviors that would connect them to one another. If we essentially are no inherent nature of the mechanisms of social behavior, the society could not develop at all. Thus representatives of symbolic interactionism try to find the answer to people's ability to communicate through symbols.
In terms of interactionists, human society is shown in the film as a group of individuals who have a “personal self”, that means that they form a meaning itself; individual action - is design, not just exercise, it is carried out by means of an individual assessment and interpretation of the situation. The personality “I” is a person who can be an object for his/her own actions. Formation of values is a so called turning point which conditions a human estimating of all things that surround him/her. It is a certain set of actions in which the individual can notice an object that refer to the human values and gives it meaning and decides to act on this matter. Highlighting or illuminating other actions helps each person to define for himself/herself the values ​​of certain actions of other people. Taking into consideration that objects are defined as external stimulus, and that people usually identify themselves with the world, providing certain value, it becomes obvious that values as well as symbols are represented as mediators between the object and the person’s reaction of this certain object. The dialogue, in which people attach importance to the world, should be interpreted in order to understand the actions of others. In fact, there is space in the relationship between gesture of the human body and the subsequent behavior of the organism, as the human body can otherwise notify by this gesture.
Modern theories of the interactionism attempt to reveal important socio-psychological mechanisms of interaction of individuals in the group at the interpersonal level certainly makes a great interest as it shows the role of the language in shaping the human psyche, the interpretation of the individual as a conscious and active participant in the social process, synthesis of large empirical data, especially in the study of social roles and the reference group. There should be also mentioned that the image of Benji symbolizes the physical and moral extinction kind of Compson. After he pounced on a schoolgirl, passing by the gate, apparently taking her caddy, he was subjected to castration. The image of Benji is associated with Christ - Easter day he turns 33 years old, but in his heart he is still a baby. The very structure of the novel resembles the Four Gospels. The first three parts are thought to be “synoptic” narrating voices of different characters almost one and the same and the fourth part of a generalization, giving the story an abstract symbolism. However, these positive aspects interactionists’ theories cannot be fully realized through subjective idealist assumptions adopted by the authors of these theories. This is what leads to the main limitation - interpretation of the nature of “social” only as “interaction”


1) Mazzotta, Tina, Myers, Benjamin. “Language and Meaning: Symbolic Interactionism”. USC Upstate Undergraduate Research Journal. Spring 2008. Print.
2) Stryker, Sheldon. “From Mead to a Structural Symbolic Interactionism and Beyond”. Annual Review of Sociology. 2008. Print.
3) Crossman, Ashley. “Symbolic Interaction Theory”. Three Major Perspectives in Sociology. 2011.

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