The Saints and the Roughnecks

8 August 2016

The Saints and the Roughnecks In the article “Saints and the Roughnecks” by William J. Chambliss, he examines two groups of delinquent high school aged boys, and labeled the eight upper-class boys the “Saints”, and the six lower-class boys the “Roughnecks”. Although the groups had a fairly equal amount of lawlessness, the groups were treated unequally by the community because of the labeling theory. The inequality had an effect on both group’s high school and post high school way of life.

The labeling theory is a symbolic-interaction approach that states regardless of an action a doer does, only the public’s perception has the ability to determine its severity. After the judgement as been made, society labels the doer with a role. For example, the Saints were able to talk their way out of trouble because of their status in society. The Saints were involved in school activities, such as sports and school programs, which is perceived to be supporting their community and being “good citizens.

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The Saints were mostly respectful to their teachers and mostly received good grades, so they were perceived by their teachers as being “good students. ” Due to the Saints efforts to be perceivably “leaders in the youth community,” local law enforcers rarely stopped the group. When the boys were stopped, the boys were well mannered, and craftily played their roles of the being good guys, and would be let off with a warning; however, these boys were not as good as they were perceived.

Since the “good citizens” were from upper-class families they had vehicles, and were able to travel to other communities to be troublesome, rather than just their own. The “good students” would skip class by using extra curricular programs as excuses, and received good grades by cheating on exams. The “leaders in the youth community” would commonly drink and drive, play chicken with their cars, steal roadsigns and sign lanterns, ruin abandoned homes, and much more. The Saints got away with mischief because they were able to stay away from public judgements.

The Roughnecks were unable to be inconspicuous, so the community’s perception was greatly enhanced due to their inequalities. The boys were from low income families that could not afford cars or nice cloths, and they stayed within the limits of the town. They were mostly perceived outside of the town’s drugstore being drunk, stealing from the store, and always fighting. The townspeople’s overall expectations of the boys was presumably uninterested in going anywhere in life. This persuaded the boy’s teachers into believing similar expectations and they would pass the boys just to refrain from making the community’s issue worse.

Local law enforcers viewed the boys as a problem, and would often give the boys a hard time; however, the boys were not as harmful as the community perceived. The poor boys were rarely drunk because they were unable to be served by the local taverns, while the Saints were regularly drunk. When they boys did steal it was low cost items, but the Saints often stole street signs and damaged citizen’s personal property. When fighting occurred, it was usually within their own group, and was much less dangerous than the Saints’ drinking and driving and removing road construction barriers that could of killed people.

The Roughneck’s threat on the community was far less than the threat the Saints had; however, the Roughnecks were noticeably more unaccepted and rebellious, and for that most suffered longterm. After high school, a majority of the Saints continued their education and were awarded good careers, but only two Roughnecks were able to surpass the community’s expectations. Two boys from the Roughnecks were Jack and Herb. They played football during high school, and were awarded scholarships to college. Since Jack and Herb were accepted to college, they stopped rebelling and became better people in society.

I assumed their career choices as a great focus point on the labeling theory. Even though they were labeled as the bad guys and were not accepted by the community, they were accepted in the football community, which opened opportunities for them to get a degree. Jack and Herb became teachers and football coaches later in life, which one could assume that they are guiding kids that were not accepted, like them, to have a better way of life. If Jack and Herb were not accepted into college, I believe that they would suffer the same inequalities as the rest of the Roughnecks, who are living crime filled lives.

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The Saints and the Roughnecks. (2016, Aug 31). Retrieved May 21, 2019, from
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