I've written about this before...and the short answer is that the students are wrong in this case...but that's not what this entry is about. I think the point I keep coming back to is...why is this the goal? Why are people so eager to see things, people, places, stories, and exchanges as simply "cigars" and not symbols for something more? For example, we're currently reading the story of Macbeth, a play that one of my students yesterday called "just a story about people killing each other." To be honest, he's right...but only if we choose to view the story as simply as stand-alone story. That's just about all the happens and the story ends in tragedy. If indeed that's all to be found in Macbeth, then there's really no point in reading it. If, however, we choose to look deeper and make it a metaphor for the dangers of power, the disparity between appearance and reality,and the line between good and evil. It's a more much exciting prospect than "a story about people murdering each other."
Of course, this doesn't apply to just literature; this is something you can see in just about every aspect of your life. Whether it's the mechanics of a conversation, the design in daily signs, signals, and objects, the routine of everyday life all as symbolic and deeper meaning beyond themselves. I'm not quite sure why everyone is intent on making life "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" when there's a much more interesting story just below the surface. All you need to do is take a look; otherwise a cigar is always just a cigar.