Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Rio de Janeiro

*Rio de Janeiro. Capital city of Brazil in which most of the novel is set. In keeping with Braz Cubas’s general lack of interest in his surroundings, Rio is depicted only in the vaguest and most generic terms; readers will be unable to form any precise visual image of what the city looks like. Although the narrative does involve travel between various locations in the city, exteriors are almost completely ignored in favor of moderately detailed attention to those interiors within which important plot events take place.

Cubas’s house

Cubas’s house. Secluded home of Cubas that serves as the love nest he shares with his childhood sweetheart Virgilia, who has made an unhappy marriage that propels her back into Cubas’s embraces. Their initial meetings occur at her home, where the unpredictable whereabouts of the servants make discovery a constant danger. Thus the establishment of a separate trysting place is both prudent and an emotional necessity for Cubas. So far as he is concerned, their cozy retreat is a symbol of his possession of Virgilia, a place where his ownership of the furnishings signifies his control over what happens amid them. For a while he even envisions the house as a kind of Eden on earth, although the passage of time and the intrusion of the outside world will eventually reduce it—as everything else in the novel is similarly reduced—to merely another example of life’s failure to live up to expectations.

Lobo Neves’s...

(The entire section is 625 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Caldwell, Helen. Machado de Assis: The Brazilian Master and His Novels. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978. One of the primary translators of Machado de Assis’ work into English focuses upon his novels, with special emphasis on Epitaph of a Small Winner.

Fitz, Earl E. Machado de Assis. Boston: Twayne, 1989. An excellent general introduction to Machado de Assis’ life and work. Discusses all of Machado de Assis’ novels, as well as his plays, short stories, poetry, and journalism.

Nunes, Maria Luisa. The Craft of an Absolute Winner: Characterization and Narratology in the Novels of Machado de Assis. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1983. Focuses on Ma-chado’s novels, paying particular attention to the characters and to Machado de Assis’ ideas about time.

Nunes, Maria Luisa. “Story Tellers and Character: Point of View in Machado de Assis’ Last Five Novels.” Latin American Literary Review 7, no. 13 (1978): 52-63. Discusses how these novels, including Epitaph of a Small Winner, use their unusual narrators to involve the reader in the text. Discusses Machado de Assis’ ironic humor.