<the> containers which signify nothing in themselves

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Makel Leki

Senior Member
From Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? / Blade Runner:
In the early morning light the land below him extended seemingly forever, gray and refuse-littered. Pebbles the size of houses had rolled to a stop next to one another and he thought, It’s like a shipping room when all the merchandise has left. Only fragments of crates remain, the containers which signify nothing in themselves.
Why did the author use the definite article before "containers"? What does it signify, in your opinion?
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