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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 310

A ship arrives at the docks of a sugarcane plantation, and the master of the plantation arrives with slaves to pick up his cargo: a new group of slaves and a large, terrifying mastiff. The slave owner and his overseers have trouble managing the slaves on the plantation, and he decided that having a deadly beast there to quell any rebellions and hunt down runaways would help keep things under control.

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When the old man slave sees the new younger slaves arriving, it reminds him of his old life. For all the time he's been at the plantation, he's had to keep those memories and feelings repressed to survive. He's known for being quiet and agreeable; he doesn't cause problems. The arrival of the mastiff creates a change in him, though.

The master takes the mastiff home and feeds it raw meat until it's strong and healthy again. Like the slaves with which it shared the ship, it lost weight and was unhealthy from the journey. However, in time, it's fully robust again. It intimidates everyone on the plantation—even the other dogs are submissive to it. When a slave runs away, the mastiff drags him back bloody and injured. However, the old man slave has some type of power that commands the respect of everyone around him, even the terrifying mastiff.

Even though the mastiff is a figure of fear for the slaves, the old man listens to a storyteller and hears that anyone who manages to escape the mastiff may be granted unknown happiness. He remembers more of his life, is subject to surges of the past, and eventually decides he has to leave. Despite being warned by the master of dangers that might wait in the woods, he flees into it. The old man slave escapes the master and the mastiff at the end of the story.


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 405

The characters in this story do not have names but are referred to as the Master, the mastiff, and the old man slave. The story begins when the Master imports the huge mastiff from overseas to quell the slaves on his sugarcane plantation. The emaciated mastiff arrives in port with a shipload of slaves, having endured the middle passage with them. The old man slave, as he always does, accompanies the Master to pick up the large, powerful dog. The old man slave has been a slave for so long that he moves like an automaton, without personality. He is an invisible man whose presence is taken for granted.

As the Master and old man slave arrive back at the Martinique plantation, six or seven Creole dogs begin to howl but suddenly grow deathly quiet at the sight of the mastiff. The...

(The entire section contains 715 words.)

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