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The major theme is the decline of the aristocratic Southern family in general and the Compson family specifically. Some of the events and parts of the novel seem to emphasize the socio- economic antithesis between old and new cultures. The passage of time means changes that some will not be able to deal with at all (Quentin, for example). In the post-war South, changes were required of a society well rooted in its ways.
Each of the characters has a thematic significance that can be discussed in terms of the entire novel. Quentin, for instance, is an idealist unable to cope with the changing face of his world. His sister Caddy's lack of morality is just one example of the way the world is changing without his consent or approval. Caddy, for her part, is a child who must grow up without the guidance and support of her elders. As such, she falls apart. In many ways, the South is also being forced to grow up without guidance and support. The question is, will the foundations of the Southern family fall apart as well? Benjy is the only member of the Compson family left alive with a clearly defined sense of good and evil, but he is an idiot, lacking the capacity to express himself with other than groans and moans.
The mood is dark, full of tragedy and regret. There is a sense of frustration and impotence, of inability to control life or put things in order. There is a great sense of sadness that, as Dilsey puts it, the end is near.