The Sound of Silence: Analysis

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

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The oxymoron  (=combination of words having opposite or very different meanings) in the title gives a good idea of incommunicability among people
The poem ‘The Sound of Silence’ consists of five irregular stanzas in which the poet describes  the conflict between spiritual and material values in our  modern world.

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

The poem begins with an address to darkness. The narrator says that he has come to talk to it  because a certain vision has  planted its seeds in his brain while he was sleeping. The vision still remains there in  the sound of silence.

The singer seems to realise  what we are in essence – lonely people,  living in the darkness, in  the  void. Maybe we  are aware we are  familiar with the darkness , but he has had a  “vision softly creeping” , a sort of inspiring dream  that has triggered a sort of self-awareness, of    enlightenment

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a streetlamp
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
And touched the sound of silence

Now the poet describes his restless dream, in which he seems alone, walking in a dark  world of nothingness. This might mean that the more enlightened we are , the lonelier  we become.  It is dark, cold and wet, and he  “Turned my collar to the cold and damp” to   highlight that we everybody seems obliged  to accept  bad conditions. Suddenly the  “neon light” hit his eyes, i.e. something arrived  to distract him  (he is still alone)  from his lonely feelings. . This refers to  the deceitful nature of life that  may prevent us  from realising the  emptiness or alienation of  our lives.
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dare
Disturb the sound of silence
Now the sharp light allows him to see a lot people are talking without speaking and hearing without listening.  Some of them are even writing songs that will  never be sung.
Our meaningless existence  applies to everyone else, we fail to communicate, to enter into relationships with others.
The complete impersonality of a crowd is portrayed : not only are we lonely when we are alone, but we are also alone even when we are surrounded by other people.

Unfortunately, many of us  don’t really  pay attention to the content of what we  hear or  say. It is an image painted in the 1960s but it  anticipates  what is happening in our present society: people  next to each other seem to say things (on the phone or the social media)   to everybody  except the ones  immediately surrounding them.

Fools” said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

The narrator  calls  them  fool, because  silence has an abnormal unhealthy growth, like   cancer. He asks them to hear his words and to hold his hand. He tries to warn the people in his dream, he invites them we try to rebel against the system, but they just turn their heads and look the other way.  It’s just easier to swim with the tide than against it.

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
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
And whispered in the sounds of silence”

All those people don’t want to listen to his warnings,  are not  touched by his  his words . They  are giving all their attention to  the neon God they created and are  worshipping  all what it says  without using a voice.

When they are without religion, people try to find a meaning to life elsewhere, they may look for it in their belongings, without realizing   they want to find   meaning when there  is none.
The last phrase is strange  and it may  suggest that only when people are not completely conditioned, maybe in the poorest environments, there may be able to understand the revelation of the approaching doom

 

120 thoughts on “The Sound of Silence: Analysis

  1. I am a big fan of this song as I played it regularly back in the day when I performed. Great poetry, as were most of their lyrics. Their best, I believe, was “America.” I used this song in college to teach imagery.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. …but what/when is the supposed approaching doom?…and why? This song was written long before any or many were talking about climate change. Is it some Biblical or other religious judgment day that some have predicted for centuries? At least we have avoided nuclear destruction of this small planet so far and no aliens have yet landed to wipe us out and even the current pandemic will not kill us all. The world has even survived Trump! Even if this planet one day becomes uninhabitable, we may be able to escape to other more livable planets or moons.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I posted on this song recently and sure silence grips, throttles throat, chokes, leaving no room for movement and, nowadays, is often available in many colours, it’s even bespoke, yet this silence is both outside and in, the louder of the two governed, by a confusion of who has first sinned,
      projected hostility turned in on the self, self loathing and hatred, oh where do I begin, so begin at the beginning of the silence within, cherish it, it yours and is born of no sin, no crime, let it silence the silence, and protect you from him.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. hope you good
        im in ghana
        and this piece is very encouraging
        my favourite part was when the analyst said,” it is easier swimming with the tide than against it”
        in the se end times times we have to stay true for God beacause He is and has been good to us
        and certainly the is a place set for us when Christ comes to embrace His children

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Infatti ho inserito un traduttore, ma temo non sia visibile se si visualizza il blog da uno smartphone. Infatti è un problema che incontro anch’io con i miei amici che parlano lingue che non conosco: per fortuna la maggior parte ha un traduttore che riesco a utilizzare quando accedo dal PC.
        🙂

        Like

  2. “The Sounds of Silence” was a favorite of mine when I was a girl. It speaks powerfully to the loneliness and isolation all human beings experience at times, as well as to the alienation in society.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog! The quote at the top of your article about the neon god has always stayed with me. It reminds me of a verse in the Bible where a prophet writes about how people bow down before the works of their own hands.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Simon are Garfunkel, music from the heart with a message to the head, please listen. Luisa, your profile picture definitely looks like one with the depth of knowing capable of theses wonderful post. In other words, I like your profile picture.🙏❤️😊

    Liked by 2 people

      1. My pleasure I hope your day goes well right here where I am it’s 10 a.m. on Friday I just came in from watering my plants hosing down my patio and handicap ramp feeding the birds , chipmunks are there the squirrels are there there’s a kitty by the name of toupee, he’s nearly blind I didn’t know what kind of kitty he is ,just now I looked him up ,its tail is black the top of his head is black so he looks like he’s wearing a toupee and he has a heart in black on his side all black fur but he’s a white kitty I believed he’s called a harlequin.. take care dear enjoy your day and enjoy your weekend the temperatures here right now or in the low 70s puffy white clouds Sunshine no humidity little breeze in the air and blue skies enjoy.sharon 🎷🐝🍅🍞🍉🍎

        Like

  5. A revolt song against establishment, injustice, and passiveness of people.
    It is a warning and a call for change, a call for revolt.
    Here is a breakdown of the song the way I see it:

    “Hello darkness, my old friend
    I’ve come to talk with you again”

    Depression. He feels alone with nobody to communicate his thoughts. Nobody who sees what he sees.

    “Because a vision softly creeping
    Left its seeds while I was sleeping”

    Not clear what kind of a vision is he talking about, but from the rest of the song we can conclude it is about oppression, injustice, manipulation, and brainwashing.
    Seeing different types of oppression, and injustice over the time, while not understanding or not even trying to understand what is behind (while I was sleeping), he does nothing about it. Slowly, from all those disconnected pixels of a world around him, he starts forming a bigger picture, a vision, when connected altogether.

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

    Yet, although, he finally starts seeing the problem, and the cause, he still is not doing anything.

    “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”

    The metaphor use in this part is very heavy, so I will try first to explain some of it.
    Narrow – restricted
    Cobblestone – paving stone tightly put together, and firmly depressed into ground – oppressed people with restricted rights.
    Halo – a ring of light around or above the head of a holy person – god, power, police, establishment.
    He feels like if he is the only one who sees that mass of oppressed people, and injustice toward them created by the system, yet he still ignores it (I turned my collar to the cold and damp). [Think of homeless people you pass by. How many times do we turn our head the other way? How many times we ask ourselves why? If we know why, what did we do to change it?]

    “When my eyes were stabbed by
    The flash of a neon light
    That split the night
    And touched the sound of silence”

    The moment he completes the picture, the parts are connected and he has a clear vision, the blinds on his eyes are finally off(“When my eyes were stabbed by The flash of a neon light That split the night). He would like to scream and do something (And touched the sound of silence), but still not there yet.

    “And in the naked light I saw
    Ten thousand people, maybe more
    People talking without speaking
    People hearing without listening
    People writing songs that voices never share
    And no one dared
    Disturb the sound of silence”

    He realizes, he is not alone who sees all that injustice, many more (Ten thousand people, maybe more) sees that, yet they never mention, or understand that, nor they act upon that. Although, they think about the problems, oppression, and injustice around them (People writing songs that voices never share) they are not ready to stand up and change the situation.
    At the other hand, mainstream media and politicians are pushing narrative that is basically meant to passivize people, and distract, push their anger towards invented enemy, minority groups, and religions. (People talking without speaking People hearing without listening).
    They have no courage to revolt against the system (And no one dared Disturb the sound of silence).
    Even though not completely content with the system, and their lives, they would rather comply, and let other people rule them, than to try to change the system afraid to lose what they have.

    “”Fools”, said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows”

    He warns people about passiveness (“Fools”, said I, “You do not know Silence like a cancer grows). If nothing gets changed, and people keep complying, slowly they will get attuned to that and it will become even worse.

    “Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”

    He is calling people to revolt.

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

    But nobody answers the call.

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

    People still blinded with false idols, money, and false promises, and empty dreams served by the mass media controlled by establishment and used to brainwash and control people.

    “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
    And whispered in the sound of silence.””

    At the time the song was written, besides the mass media (TV, radio, and newspapers), the only way people could express their through was through graffiti (“The words of the prophets are Written on the subway walls And tenement halls), but they do not have impact on larger mass of people (And whispered in the sound of silence.”)

    Please, check The Sound of Silence video at: https://youtu.be/5oQWIjoWoZQ

    I heard S&G version so many times, but did not listen…

    Background
    The song was written 1962 and released 1964.
    Paul Simon wrote a song when he was 21 and took him over 10 months to finish it. According to Paul, parts of the lyrics came from literature he read at college at that time and incorporated into song. At that time Paul was frequently passing through the poor parts of the city on the way to college.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Luisa. I’m just blown away by this new enlightenment. My very cerebral narcissistic hubby of fifty years recently passed away , was a great musician , mostly jazz , played in all states here in the United States played the clarinet, flute,all sax, 4, organ keyboard ,violin, piano, composed music , dancestep , stage m.c. singer , and comedian. But never would listen to people like Simon & Garfunkel.He certainly would never condone my listening either . Its really soooo sad now that I missed being a young person. But in 1970 and at 18 years old he was my lord and master . now at 67 years old I’m learning everything very quickly. In other words everything is in reverse , I had to grow up very fast and embrace everything as an equal with a husband 25 years older than I. And become. Very mature and absorbe wisdom fast . Now at Almost 68 I can be YOUNG and enjoy everything that was taken away from my youth. 💪💃 Thank you Sincerest Sharon

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Sharon, we can be young at heart even at our age. I say it for you and I say it for me . The most important thing is to know how to enjoy the things and opportunities we are given, and never stop being curious or learning.
      A big hug from Italy

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Louisa I would love to correspond with you I always love speaking about my husband of course like anyone else he did have flaws like I do and later in life those flaws came forward and made his existence torturous for both of us he was a cerebral narcissist which is good and bad my father was a psychopath narcissist and my mother was a co-dependent that would never leave him to save herself even and somehow at 65 years old I realized I didn’t come from Mars or another planet but I really wasn’t like either one of the parents and my husband saved me from a lot of abuse at home who was a wonderful man he had great qualities who was a very intelligent handsome man and it was very very difficult for me a young girl coming out of an abusive situation and meeting him and him wanting to marry me when I became of age but I love talking about Gene and thank you for asking me if you can send me your email or something or there’s a phone call I could make to you that might be nice so let me know please ,my email is s marinucci 1970 (that’s the year we married) @gmail.com. 🎼🎶🥂

        On Sat, Aug 8, 2020, 10:45 AM words and music and stories wrote:

        > luisa zambrotta commented: “[image: 😘][image: ❤] [image: 😊] [image: 🙏]” >

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you so much for this post re one of my favourite songs. We did study Sounds of Silence at school all those years ago. I was only playing it on the weekend on my guitar, amongst some of the other Simon and Garfunkel classics!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I disagree with the notion that the lyrics necessarily have anything to do with “when people don’t have religion.” My take is it’s a matter of people not connecting with each other, and the “neon god” likely represents things like TV, advertising, consumerism, etc. It’s sort of comparing this to a false religion that keeps people from meaningfully connecting with each other.

    I don’t think conventional religion has anything to do with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ciao Luisa, grazie. Loro sono fra i miei cantautori preferiti. Confesso, quando li ho sentiti dal vivo non ho resistito ho pianto, ma dopo il concerto ero piena di gioia e di speranza. Il potere sottile e forte dell’arte che riesce a parlare direttamente all’animo, anche se non ti rendi conto di come ciò accade.
    Un caro saluto.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. People talking without speaking, people hearing without listening,….. Humm?? For some reason this pic kinda reminds me of that…. , and the people bowed and prayed, to the neon god they made ?? Well it is manmade and definitely neon lights come out of it.. sooooooo, …. I picture like bowing in prayer in church, much in the same way we look at our cellphones, where we talk to text to communicate,without speaking,….. And where we hear without listening… where people can do things like write songs that voices never share

    Liked by 2 people

  11. The sound of Silence, such an amazing song, it cuts straight to your heart.
    Funnily I listened to it last night with Simon and Garfunkel and it brings tears to my eyes.

    May we talk words worth listening to
    May we learn to listen

    Thanks for this beautiful post

    Miriam

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s