Half a century ago, a groundbreaking film hit the screens of America’s movie theaters, catapulting the career of a young Dustin Hoffman to movie stardom and offering an entire generation of young people a single piece of career advice: “plastics.” It was The Graduate; a classic I shall never forget.
At that time, my husband Larry and I had been married about a year and a half. Of all the films Larry and I watched together during our marriage, the experience of seeing The Graduate was the most memorable. As a young couple who had pushed to get married in face of strong opposition from both my mother and brother, Larry and I could totally relate to the young couple’s struggles.
The parents’ consternation in the movie and efforts to keep the young couple apart made me uncomfortable. I realized it was a resentment I needed to give up. As I watched Larry take in the movie, I wondered if the scene when the young couple was fighting for the opportunity to wed reminded him of our own experience.
If it did, he seemed to have overcome those feelings. I always saw Larry as an old soul, older than his years. He never harbored resentment toward anyone, always treating my mother like a queen. Before deploying to Vietnam, he also became close to my brother, a highly-decorated veteran.
Looking back on the experience, more than its plot and biting social commentary about middle class values of the day, what sticks with me today about The Graduate is its soundtrack, which included the song “The Sound of Silence,” by Simon and Garfunkel. This lovely tune and its poignant words have stayed with me throughout the years.
In today’s highly divisive political and social climate, “The Sound of Silence” continues to hold special meaning for me with its haunting words. When I feel like people are talking at each other and words too often sound and feel like weapons, “The Sound of Silence” remains especially comforting to me. It reflects my own desire to be in a quiet place where, preferably in nature, I can contemplate and try to make sense of the rancor I see and hear on television, radio and among some of my friends.
Over the years, I’ve often wondered how Simon and Garfunkel perceived the song. During my research, I read that someone asked Paul Simon, “how could a 21-year-old think about the words in that song?” He replied, “I have no idea.”
Garfunkel’s interpretation of the meaning of the song seems especially relevant today. He is believed to have commented that it addressed, “the inability of people to communicate with each other…especially emotionally.”
The Graduate went on to be nominated for 7 Academy Awards in 1968 and Mike Nichols won for Best Director. But the film’s true legacy for me remains this evocative song, and the memories that it brings to my mind about a bittersweet time in my life.
-Tyra Manning ©