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William Faulkner definitely uses Emily's sleeping with the corpse as a symbol of the decline of the Old South and the decadence and perversities that occurred among the aristocratic Southerners before the Civil War. Arrogance and privilege were common traits of many wealthy, old Southern families such as the Griersons--those of "nobless oblige"--who the townspeople thought "held themselves a little too high for what they really were." Madness and insanity ran in the family, yet odd behavior among the privileged was often considered merely eccentric. Emily's decision to kill Homer and keep the corpse close by is not surprising; she refused to give up her father's body when he died, too. As in the days of the ante-bellum South, when plantation owners ruled their own small worlds, enslaving others to do their work for them, Emily had never found reason to follow the rules and laws of Jefferson as it entered the 20th century. She chose to live in the unchanging world of the Grierson house, where she was surrounded by other relics of the past and, literally, "skeletons in her closet."
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