There are many symbols used in the book which illustrate the themes. Carter frequently uses objects and places which take on meanings beyond the literal and begin to develop ideas about society, for example:
The grandfather clock: represents their absent father, as it was given to them by their great Aunt (Ranulph's Sister) and was sent to their house by accident as it was the last known address of Melchior. It is also a phallic symbol. It is flawed, as it doesn’t always strike the right time: "it gives out the time in a falsetto ping, and always the wrong time". This links to their father, as he is also flawed, because there are many aspects of his personality which are less than admirable, such as his vanity and not recognising his daughters for many years.
Song and dance: represents their career. Like them it is light-hearted and full of energy. It is also a cliché – making a song and dance – making a fuss.
London: their own city – it is their birthplace. There is also a carnivalesque element to London – it is a city that is constantly changing: “can’t get a cup of tea”. The most important moment of carnivalesque in the novel is the party which ends in the fire, as it has a manic recklessness to it, which parallels the pre-renaissance carnivals; it also corresponds to the description of carnivalesque by Bakhtin.
The pairing of opposites: Shown most simply in the number of sets of twins, and also in the family names- "Chance" and "Hazard", two words with the same meaning, perhaps emphasising the superficial nature of the differences between them.