Rope, cord, string play a part in The Following, reflecting the novel’s attempt to evoke the ineffable. A rope is real but knots appear and disappear along its length like phantoms. Life and death depend on knots well-tied, the surgeon's knot, railwayman’s and seafaring knots, varieties of occupational knot down to the hangman's knot that collapses (a knot term) after use, into a guileless length of cord.
The word knot conjures up a thinker, knuckles to forehead, sorting out a tangle. This is Marcus Friendly, entering politics, in Book One.
The word hitch announces Book Two, signalling a delay, a complication. In the language of knots a hitch joins a rope to something, which happens in The Following when two people come together (in a love match).
A bend in Book Three, “The Yeomans Bend”, is a curve of the horizon that beckons towards Windy Point Light, where world and spirit are joined (a bend is a knot joining two lengths of rope).
My favourite knots are the bowline, which holds reliably tight, but is easily undone, the buntline hitch, which I tied from the age of twelve without giving it a name when I started wearing a necktie (it pulls harder the more strain put on), the sheet bend, for joining lengths of rope thereby extending the washing line on Mondays, the truckie's, carrier's, or waggoner's hitch for tying down everything that might blow away when carrying it to the tip.
‘You are a shoddy little shit,’ said Herring when he cornered
Tiger alone, taking him by the necktie and informing him inter
alia that in naval terms a necktie knot was a buntline hitch,
tighter the harder it was pulled, and a choker.
(from Book Three)
The world was run by knots and methods of knots, demanding the agreement of a nudge or a tweak, and if you didn’t slant them, or snug them, or roll them they would not be right. Everyone from railwaymen to priests, storemen and underground miners had their knots of trade: end-stoppers and eye-splices, tassels, sinnets, round turns and half-hitches, occupational hitches and working bends.
(from Book One)