Significance of the origami Deckard found in Blade Runner
What was the significance of the origami figure Deckard found at the end of Blade Runner? What could it have symbolized?
I believe that here were two (or more) origami figures: the unicorn (noted below), and a second that resembled a man. Which one are you referring to?
The man origami was left for the replicant Leon to find. It probably represented some memory implanted in him and they probably want to suggest they're on to him.
Why would GAff leave Leon a message to tell him "We're on to you"? I think the origami man left for Leon was simply Gaffs way of pointing out that Leon was "a paper man" i.e. Man made, therefore not a real man.
Something a lot of people miss is that Gaff says to Deckard "You've done a man's job, sir", interesting turn of phrase and adds to the premise Deckard is actually a replicant. Also I like that Bryant says you're not cop you're little people... again maybe some subtle inference he is somehow less than a man.
To answer your question directly - it doesn't symbolize anything - it's Gaff's way to telling Deckard that he's a replicant, too.
The origami unicorn was left for Deckard to find by Gaff.
The symbolism of this varies, depending on which version of the film you're watching. If you're watching the 1992 Director's Cut, it implies that Gaff knew about Deckard's unicorn dream earlier in the film; further implying that Deckard is a replicant, and that Gaff knew about Deckard's dream because it was an implanted memory. This theory is futher supported by Gaff's parting line of "It's too bad she won't live. But then again who does?"
In addition to this, the unicorn, together with Gaff's parting line, shows that Gaff found Rachael at Deckard's apartment, but decided to spare her, and allow Deckard to run away with her.
The artistic device was used well in the movie, especially once the director's cut became widely available. The lingering question of Deckard's humanity has, for me at leaset, provided motivation to watch the movie several times over.
Ridley Scott confirmed Deckard is a replicant in an interview discussing among other things the unicorn dream and why Gaff knows about it
Just my two cents: Ridley Scott only "confirmed" Deckard as a replicant many years after the fact and when the movie was originally made, Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott had agreed that Deckard was _not_ a replicant. Also, I find the idea of a hardened detective dreaming about unicorns a little out of character. Perhaps Deckard is musing over the childhood dreams of Rachael. Perhaps Gaff has read the same files as well.
@user1796 A hardened detective dreaming about unicorns is out of character. But it makes a sort of sense if you buy the "Deckard was a replicant" idea. The idea, as I understand it, is this: just as Rachel was given a set of false memories, so was Deckard. There was a scene where Deckard told her some memories she never told anyone, as proof to her that they were false implants and he had read the script to them. The unicorn dream is something implanted in Deckard, and Gaff left the origami as his way of saying "I know about your dreams, you replicant." I still don't buy it, myself.
Also keep in mind there are already plenty of subtle clues that Deckard is a replicant even before the unicorn dream sequence was added in the director's cut. The film specifically depicts replicants having spooky glowing red eyes, including Deckard in a scene with Rachel. Deckard's ex-wife called him "cold fish", highlighting his child-like grasp of human emotions shared with other replicants. Deckard's body could take an inhuman amount of punishment. And Tyrell's strange fascination with Deckard giving Rachel the Voight-Kampff Test makes sense if Deckard is a replicant.
Things line up even more nicely if you assume that Deckard's memories were based off of Gaff's, as Rachel's were based off of Tyrell's niece.
If Gaff was trying to say he knew both Deckard and Rachel were replicants it doesn't make sense for him to say "too bad she won't live" about Rachel. To me, that line signifies that Rachel is different from Deckard. If he was trying to say they were the same I'd like to think he'd choose his words differently
@Drkawashima but then, immediately after, he says "but then again, who does?" implying that they ARE fundamentally the same