Epitaph of a Small Winner was the first novel in the later, more mature phase of the work of Machado de Assis. A bleak irony envelops the work. Characteristic of this sentiment, Brás Cubas dedicates these posthumous memoirs to the first worm that has gnawed into his casket. Through first-person narrative, Brás attempts to evaluate his life. Initially he recalls a money-making scheme in which he was absorbed toward the end of his life, inventing a device to protect against depression. He then recalls his final illness and visits from a woman, Virgília, with whom he had a shallow, self-absorbed, adulterous affair.
The narrator proceeds to recall the most significant events of his life from his birth in 1805 to his death in 1869. He reveals a selfish, shallow, hypocritical person. Able to expose his defects, he ignores analyzing how his character was formed. The reader acquires an increasingly interactive role with Brás Cubas, both as a witness to the candid boldness of his testimony and as a judge or evaluator of his ultimately naive and self-serving assessment. Although he speaks candidly, such frankness does not mean he has done so critically; he may know his character, but what insight of it does he have?
Spoiled by his father, Brás Cubas develops as a mean and mischievous child. One of his self-satisfied uncles introduces him to his first lover, Marcela. Though he is in love with her, she is interested only in the financial...
(The entire section is 451 words.)