Epitaph of a Small Winner Analysis
by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis

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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 house

Lobo Neves’s house. Residence of Virgilia and her husband, Lobo Neves. Domestic normality and banality are the primary characteristics of this location, which is depicted as the conventional, and thoroughly unsatisfying, standard against which Braz and Virgilia rebel. The house is essentially a showplace in which Lobo Neves, a politician, can entertain his confidants and further his career, and the novel stresses that this is both a pathetic form of human aspiration and a hindrance to the love of Braz and Virgilia.

Sabina and Cotrim’s house

Sabina and Cotrim’s house. Home of Cubas’s sister Sabina and her husband, Cotrim. Their residence is represented as the site of another version of normalcy, the mutually faithful “happy marriage.” Its humdrum character is summed up by an old oil lamp in the living room, which though curved like a question mark has no answer to Cubas’s meditations as to how he should resolve his relationship with Virgilia. Although Braz respects his sister’s choice of a conventional life, his experience of her household reinforces his determination to follow a different path.

São Pedro Theater

São Pedro Theater. Site of an awkward confrontation between Cubas and his lover’s husband. The theater is notable as one of the few locations in which a social gathering figures in the novel’s plot. Though brief, the scene emphasizes the gap between the elegant dress of the audience and the vulgar concerns that dominate their lives. It also occasions one of Cubas’s many cynical reflections on human nature, as he hypothesizes that it is only by covering up their naked bodies that people are able to interest others in what lies...

(The entire section is 794 words.)