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From a post

The first eight seasons of Two and a Half Men follows Charlie Harper, a hedonistic jingle writer living in a beachfront Malibu abode, whose life is turned upside down when his brother Alan comes to live with him following a divorce, coupled with his nephew Jake visiting on the weekends.

I guess "follows" there means something like "telling a story about", though none of the meanings in American Heritage Dictionary is close to that.

  1. a. To come or go after; proceed behind: Follow the usher to your seat. b. To go after in pursuit: would follow his enemy to the ends of the earth. c. To keep under surveillance: The agent followed the suspect around town.
  2. a. To move along the course of; take: We followed the path. b. To move in the direction of; be guided by: followed the sun westward; followed the signs to the zoo. c. To lie in the same path as: The road follows the old trading route. d. To be parallel to: The road follows the river.
  3. To accept the guidance, command, or leadership of: follow a spiritual master; rebels who refused to follow their leader.
  4. To adhere to; practice: followed family traditions.
  5. To take as a model or precedent; imitate: followed my example and resigned.
  6. a. To act in agreement or compliance with; obey: follow the rules; follow one's instincts. b. To keep to or stick to: followed the recipe; follow a diet.
  7. To engage in (a trade or occupation); work at.
  8. To come after in order, time, or position: Night follows day.
  9. To bring something about at a later time than or as a consequence of: She followed her lecture with a question-and-answer period. The band followed its hit album with a tour.
  10. To occur or be evident as a consequence of: Your conclusion does not follow your premise.
  11. a. To watch or observe closely: followed the bird through binoculars. b. To be attentive to; pay close heed to: too sleepy to follow the sermon. c. To keep oneself informed of the course, progress, or fortunes of: follow the stock market; followed the local teams.
  12. To grasp the meaning or logic of; understand: Do you follow my argument?

What does "follow" mean in the quotation?

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The closest of the AHD definitions are 11 a and c:
a. To watch or observe closely: followed the bird through binoculars.
c. To keep oneself informed of the course, progress, or fortunes of: follow the stock market; followed the local teams.

To those, we can add some definitions from another dictionary:
Merriam-Webster "follow"
8 a : to watch steadily
c : to attend closely to : keep abreast of followed his career with interest

In the course of telling a story, it can be said that one is "observing" the subject of the story. The writer is making observations, and communicating them through the story, so the reader or watcher shares in the observation: both "follow" the main character.
The word seems especially apt if the story appears in serial form, as in a TV series or a series of novels with the same central character.

  • Thank you. In 'one is "observing" the subject of the story', does one refer to the writer, the reader or both? – JakeMZ Jul 30 '20 at 12:33
  • As I mentioned, "the reader or watcher shares in the observation", so "one" means all writers and readers or watchers. This is as in the AHD definition "one: 2. An unspecified individual; anyone". – Jack O'Flaherty Jul 30 '20 at 12:44
  • Thank you so much. In "it can be said that", what does "it" refer to? – JakeMZ Jul 30 '20 at 12:52
  • "It" in that use refers to the clause that follows: "that one is observing". In terms of grammar, it's called "extraposition". The pronoun "it" functions as a dummy subject. – Jack O'Flaherty Jul 30 '20 at 13:06
  • Thank you. That’s very kind of you. Does the pair of quotation marks on "observing" indicate that the word itself is some kind of metaphor? – JakeMZ Jul 30 '20 at 13:25

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