The Sound Of Silence – Analysis

by subacati

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again

-According to Paul Simon, this is a reference to his habit of sitting in the bathtub with the lights out and singing.
I see this as the quiet spot at the bottom of the garden, that place where you go to be alone with your thoughts for a while.

Because a vision softly creeping

-The "vision softly creeping" is, for me, like the stealthy effects that modern media advertising has on us. Gradually, we become aware of things that we didn't know we wanted and never really needed anyway. Sometimes, we actually realise that there is something fundamentally wrong with modern society.

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

-To some extent, most of us are "asleep" to what is happening around us. We think that by reading newspapers and watching CNN we are "informed", but we are actually being misinformed most of the time. But sometimes, we wake up and realise what a sham "reality" is

And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night

-I see this as another reference to media and advertising. Many people sit watching tv in a daze. Even if you have company, sitting in front of the telly is as good as being alone. And your mesmeric trance is interrupted, usually at the most dramatic moments, by loud blaring adverts that are trying to sell you stuff that you never needed and didn't know you wanted.

And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people maybe more

-Here we see the unfolding of a great epiphany. Huge numbers of people going about their daily business yet virtually oblivious to one another.

People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening

-Ever listened to a politician speak? Most of what is relayed to us through media is without any real meaning. People talk mostly because they have to and not because they have anything to say. Even in our social environment, we engage in idle chit-chat merely because we must. And we hear a lot, but how much of what is said to us do we really take in?

People writing songs that voices never shared

-Imagine this for a moment. What is the point of writing a song that no one is ever going to sing? Or composing music that no one ever plays? It's a fruitless endeaver. Thus, I see this as a reference to pointless activities in general.

No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

-With all the BS in society you'd think that someone would stand up and speak out against it. But often the people who can tell the truth when everyone else is lying doesn't dare. It's dangerous to careers, among other things, to speak out against the status quo.

"Fools," said I, "you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows

-Sometimes friends or family have a "falling out." This usually results in people not speaking to one another. The longer we leave it that way, the deeper the trouble becomes. This is true in other ways as well. When something goes wrong, maybe at work or even at home, we are reluctant to bring it to the attention of anyone else in case we get into trouble for it. This attitude often leads to small problems, that might have been solved easily, becoming big problems that are not readily solved.

Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you"

-Of course, there are people that do try to put things right. These are usually younger people full of ambition and optimism. Ironically, these people seldom make it to the senior positions. (see my point about going against the status quo?)

But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

-This is what usually happens to those few brave souls that dare to challenge the establishment.

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made

-Here we see a very interesting concept. Society is driven by the media these days, yet that media is merely the product of that society.

And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said "The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls

-What do we usually find on subway walls? Graffiti. And in the slums and tenements? More graffiti.
So this is either suggesting that the graffiti is written by the prophets, or that the words of "prophets" are as meaningless as graffiti. Considering that the protagonist is playing the role of a prophet and that the neon sign is, to him, a false god I'd say it's the latter.In other words, the protagonist is trying to warn the people that the sign is leading them astray, but they refuse to listen to him because the sign tells them that anything he says is worthless.

And whispered in the sound of silence"

Well, that is my brief analysis. But to be honest, everytime I listen to this song I hear new meaning! This song was written in the 1950s and yet it's almost as if it could have been written yesterday. This is a trully dynamic and timeless piece. :up: