Paul Simon's the Sound of Silence

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  • Topic: Neon sign, Light, It Was Written
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Paul Simon's The Sound of Silence

A poem, like all other works of art, may appear as an inter-subjective truth, an intricate thread of images, a surreal yet realistic expression, and as a "creative fact" according to Virginia Woolf. In canon literature, a good poem is usually that which has fine structure, imagery, meaning and relevance; an art, which has sprung out not only of personal necessities but out of socio-cultural quagmires. Paul Simon's The Sound of Silence transcends the mediocre. It creates a bombarding mood that runs through the whole text, thus, transforming the readers to a reality it is presenting.

The poem starts with the use of a device called apostrophe (a figure of speech where one talks to or addresses an inanimate object). Here the "I" persona talks to his "old friend."

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

Apparently, this is not the first time that the speaker talks with his "old friend," darkness. He had had "talks" with it since a time unspecified, suggesting a perpetual moments of seclusion by the speaker. Talking with silence would mean solitude, loneliness if not ennui. The reason for this resort to solitude was a vision that keeps on bothering him. He was looking for solace which he found being alone; no one seems to understand Him. Here we can see him regressing—a defensive reaction of the human psyche to flounce away, by retreating to earlier stages of life, a threatening stimuli, which in this case is the vision. The "seeds" that was bequeathed to him while unaware symbolize a burgeoning message that will soon sprout in the "fullness of time" (Gal. 4:4). Nevertheless, it was still imprisoned "within the sound of silence."

In restless dreams I walked alone

Narrow streets of cobblestones

Beneath a 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

And touched the Sound of Silence.

The speaker dreams of escape from this listless weariness brought about by the creeping vision. He walked the "narrow streets of cobblestones," symbolizing oppression as was suggested by the narrowness of a street made up of cobblestones, indicative of it's ancientness, or the "old ways." The walking part is more of an implied expression of a desire to escape from unconsciousness. Under the "halo of a street lamp" he turned from "the cold and damp." This is now the boundary between the old and the new streets of society. A mild and soothing light was surrounding him before he turned, only to be "stabbed by the flash of a neon light." Light was, in literary sense, a symbol of clarity and reality. Neon, unnatural colors that are produced from the combination of primary to secondary colors, is a symbol, then, of artificiality and of breaking away from the traditional. Neon lights are, therefore, a corruption of that reality.

The flash almost blinded him as his eyes "were stabbed" by this artificiality, the dehumanizing effects of modernism. It touched the realms of his ‘prison cell,' and it almost crushed its walls and released him.

And in the naked night I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more.

People talking without speaking,

People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share

No one dared disturb the Sound of Silence

This is a common affliction of a city life—people lose individuality instead of honing them. In the "naked night" he saw all those people who profess knowledge in talking but has nothing to say, really; people who claims wisdom but are incapable of understanding; and those that write songs, or poems, but has no meaning as no voice shares with it, no language to use. A lack of the freedom of movement. The depth of...
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