One clue is in the title, derived from the passage in Macbeth that describes life in terms of its progress toward ghostly status, "but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage / And then is heard no more: it is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.(Macbeth, V.vi). The Compsons, who are the subject of The Sound and the Fury, are haunted individually and collectively, within the family circle and with reference to the family circle's place in Yoknapatawpha county. The entire novel begins as a tale told by the family idiot Benjy and continues as characters alternately fret (Benjy, Quentin, Mrs. Compson) and strut (Jason, Caddy) through life, or are so to speak heard no more (Caddy), never resolving the family's past and therefore continually haunted by it, continually attached to it, and at the same time continually seeking a way out of it. Dilsey, their black maid, counters the family's dangerous poison and offers a steady presence that absorbs the ghosts of the Compsons' slaveholding past and offers hope for the future. How this is worked out in the novel can be seen with reference to the shape that the ghosts assume for those who are haunted.
As a family, the Compsons haunted by the collective memory of the Civil War in the South. The Compsons have an anachronistic attachment to antebellum land in the midst of modernizing and industrializing 20th-century America.