This song is how people are oppressed and can't speak freely. It also connotates that a vision came to simon in a dream....
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

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
And touched the sound of silence

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

"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

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 signs said
"The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whisper'd in the sounds of silence


Lyrics submitted by kevin, edited by annacronism, Mahasquid

"The Sound of Silence" as written by Paul Simon

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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The Sound of Silence song meanings
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  • +29
    General CommentThis is a great song that I love, and it is very intelligent and poetic. The song uses the imagery of light and darkness to show how people's ignorance and apathy destroys their ability to communicate even on simple levels.
    Its theme is man's inability to communicate with man. The author sees the extent of communication as it is on only its most superficial and "commercial" level (of which the "neon sign" is representative). There is no serious understanding because there is no serious communication - "people talking without speaking - hearing without listening". No one dares take the risk of reaching out ("take my arms that I might reach you") to disturb the sound of silence. The poet's (character in the song) attempts are equally futile (" . . . but my words like silent raindrops fell within the wells of silence"). The ending is an enigma. The words tell us that when meaningful communication fails, the only sound is silence.
    MrMojoRisin5552on February 25, 2002   Link
  • +18
    General CommentI interpret this song slightly different.

    I feel it is an allusion to Plato's "Allegory of the Cave." While the ideas of commercialism (the people bow and pray to a neon god they made, the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, etc) run throughout the poem, it also has to do with a frustration the narrator feels with humans in general. They are content to "hear without listening," not willing or interested in focusing on anyone or anything too intently. They are not willing to go beyond the superficial, but merely to accept the world around them, as no one "dares disturb the sounds of silence."

    The allusion comes into play in the beginning, as the narrator has a revelation, a vision, that awakes him from this superficial, merely shadowed world. He rises, walks alone as the man in Plato's story did, and he sees the light. He tries to tempt others out of the cave of ignorance and look beyond teh surface of things, but his "words like silent raindrops" fall. His attempts are futile.

    That's what I got out of the song, my two cents ^_^ An amazing song no matter how you interpret it!
    carabiner86on May 09, 2003   Link
  • +7
    General CommentThe song sound of silence is a lyric that uses imagery and symbolism very heavily. The story of it is that the author has a dream about ten thousand people bowing to a god they made of neon light. The god represents the fake and shallow culture they are building on pop stars and the dollar bill. The media “talks without speaking” and the people “hear without listening” there is a cancer of silence which represents a widespred lack of meaning, in music namely. This is an extreemly well written poem and a good view on what is happening to the media. The so called artists are putting less and less art in their work.Their is mass prostitution of art happening in our culture and we all sit happily starring at the neon light and ignore the real art. I heard a good a good quote the other day i have eno idea who said it but I’ll close with it. “For the culture that tolerates shottyness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity and ignores excellence in plumbing because it is a humble activity. This is their fate. Neither their pipes nor it’s theories will hold water.”
    matty mottoon June 13, 2002   Link
  • +5
    Song MeaningI think that this song is about a struggle to share and exchange MEANINGFUL ideas. The people “talking without speaking” and “hearing without listening” are too afraid to share their deep and personal ideas or consider the ideas of others. A person’s refusal to share or receive meaningful ideas dissuades others from sharing meaningful ideas, which leaves people isolated in a personal bubble of silence. When people are too afraid to open up and disturb their comfortable bubble of silence, all that is left for everyone to see is the neon light — the glaringly obvious and superficial. As for the ending, I think it is an anthropomorphized neon sign warning the silent people that “the words of the prophets”, or ideas that used to be incredibly meaningful, are “written on the subway walls and tenement halls” — are now written in crappy public places alongside posters, dirt, and graffiti. The meaning has been lost. The words and ideas they conveyed are now no more important than any other carelessly scribbled message. And yet, and yet. These important words are also “whispered in the sounds of silence”. I personally like to think this means that, though much of what we blather on about today in school, in the media, with our friends, ect... is not very meaningful, we DO still reach out to one another; people ARE still capable of sharing great ideas (as is required of great philosophers and inventors and builders) even if only in whispers. And perhaps one day, when someone has an idea which is very important to them, they will not feel too intimidated to open up and share that idea or have that idea challenged by someone else’s idea.
    OBGHSSBWon December 10, 2011   Link
  • +4
    General CommentSimon might of been young, however he shows great understanding about the world around him. Some comment believes that Simon was incapable to write something that would have such a great depth to it because of his age. I come across people who were only 14 years old yet had more depth about life then a 60 years old man. It is not the age, it is what life offered to you which gives you depth, understanding and sympathy toward others. For example if you were bullied at school or had troubles at home, you are under racism, it will cause pain but at the same time it will give you greater understanding about the world. I suspect Simon might of been through some hard time which made him not only an artist but an enlightened person.

    The meaning of the lyrics is about darkness, representing ignorance,
    silence representing people are not allowed to express their opinion.
    "people talking without speaking" meaning they just talk, without any meaning...
    "people hearing without listening" people hearing but do not understand.
    "When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of neon light" is advertising and advertising equals money. Therefore, he is talking about wealth.
    "and people bowed and prayed, To the neon god they made" worshiping money and wealth, and wealth become the prophet even in the subway walls where advertising is shown.

    Hello darkness my old friend.. we are living in a shallow world in darkness, enslaved by wealth.
    tarotpdfon April 13, 2013   Link
  • +3
    General CommentOne of the very few songs that can bring me to tears.... I've always loved quoting parts of it to people, then interpreting it to them. (cause they usually don't get it!) Good music never grows old, that's what I've discovered...
    blackstarguitaron May 04, 2003   Link
  • +3
    General CommentPeople need to stop posting "I'm only __ years old and I love this song!" It doesn't make you sound any more mature or any cooler so stop trying.
    myusikon April 07, 2008   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationMy Verse by verse interpretation:

    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
    -----
    ~
    Hello Enlightened people,
    To me, this song also represents the improper communication with our mind.
    Our mind is The sound of silence.
    It is ON when you close ur eyes.
    It has to be listened, respected to believe and followed.
    As the writer did, and we get this ultimate song.
    -----

    In restless dreams I walked alone
    Narrow streets of cobblestone
    Beneath 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
    And touched the sound of silence
    -----
    ~
    Now we open our eyes.
    We look everywhere around us.
    We switch on our TV.
    We get majority of our thoughts from Screens(TV/Movies) i.e. Neon god.
    We fill ourself with thoughts of People, Lifestyle, War, Fashion, Money, Cars,etc.
    This makes our mind ponder to a thought.
    -----

    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 deared
    Disturb the sound of silence
    -----
    ~
    When we watch TV, we find that we try to follow it in our life to completeness.
    We follow it even though its fake and manipulated
    to fulfill some person's financial needs.
    In screens, Actors just speak lines.
    In screens, Actors just hear lines.
    In screens, Actors dont express their actual thoughts.
    Everyone is afraid to touch what one's mind feels like speaking.
    They are mere spectators, powerless and hollow from inside.
    As they dont touch their own mind(sound of silence).
    So we follow them too by being spectators and powerless in our life too.
    We dont touch our what our mind(sound of silence) say.
    ------
    "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 writer here ask us to act(Hear my words,take my arms).
    Because if we keep only following screens
    and dont listen to our own mind(sound of silence)
    Then we will run after things dictated by screens our whole life.
    We have no idea why we are doing that way and complain till end.
    Because we have no idea what we really want and where our happiness lies.
    Thats why everyday, we feel so hollow inside.
    This hollowness(cancer) grows bigger and bigger.

    But still nobody wants to touch that sound of silence(mind)
    We look out for solution even though every solution is inside us.
    We dont listen, we just hear it.
    and its accumulated in the sound of silence(mind) which we never listen.

    -----
    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 signs said the words of the prophets
    Are written on the subway walls
    And tenement halls
    And whispered in the sounds of silence
    -----
    ~
    But still we go on with our screens(Neon god).
    Neon god laughs here and says to the writer
    "Throughtout ages, all the prophets of all the religions have been saying the same things. Earlier it was kings then society, now its screens.
    Their have found their place in outside world only (on walls and books)
    not inside (the mind).
    If they werent successful, where do you stand?
    You will also find yourself at the same place i.e. outside the mind"

    Thats why millions may have listened to the songs.
    Thousands have sung.
    Hundreds have interpreted it.
    But very few will follow it even then.
    We will still follow our neon gods,
    And not listen to our sound of silence.
    Thus this song will hold significance till mankind remains,
    and we will just laugh at this paradox.
    shiningdeadon November 15, 2009   Link
  • +3
    General CommentIt's a song about modernity and the ironic effects of mass communication tools to isolate people.

    The narrator is observing people being physically so close, but spiritually and emotionally being separate, unable (or perhaps unwilling) to communicate.

    The narrator desperately wants to communicate to these people, to get them to recognize what's around them, including the wisdom of young rebel graffiti artists.

    The "neon god" is television.
    PencilNeckedGeekon September 28, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General Commentfor some reason i find this song to have a haunting and almost sinister sound. it is rather sad. i almost associate it with war and death for some unknown reason. Any ideas why?
    Indi1994on September 05, 2011   Link

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