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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 424

When the mastiff and a new group of slaves arrive, the old man slave sees himself reflected in them. To survive his life on the sugarcane plantation, he had to push away his memories of his old life. However, the arrival of the mastiff creates a change in him. Patrick Chamoiseau says:

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It was, for the old man slave, a moment of confusion: seeing those men who looked so much like him leave the ship, all only half revived from the longest of deaths. The oil that coated their sickly skin blended with their sweat and traces of anguish. Their screams, companion to extreme suffering, had left permanent deposits of garlic-smelling foam in the corners of their mouths. They still carried the odors of the country of Before, its ultimate rhythms, its languages that were already almost lost.

That day isn't the end of his new feelings and memories. The Storyteller talks about the importance of the mastiff and seems to say that it's more than just a mere dog. On one hand, it's a terrifying figure that drags back runaway slaves and leaves them bleeding and injured. But the Storyteller says:

This mastiff, he would say, keeps watch over the dead and over hell. He described it as a bird with fur, a horse with feathers, a one-horned buffalo, a voiceless toad man, or a carnivorous flower. Its body, made of mother of water and wounded moon, guarded precious gates. He explained that whoever overcame the dog would open the door to unknown happiness.

Its presence shakes the old man slave and makes it...

(The entire section contains 424 words.)

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