The stories in this volume reflect Machado's post-1880 emphasis on social satire and experimentation in psychological realism. If he had continued to produce the moralistic love stories and parlor intrigues of his earlier fiction, Machado's legacy would have been an entertaining but inconsequent body of work. However, by 1880 he had begun a devastating satirical assault on society through his fiction. In spite of his ruthlessness, Machado does at times reveal an ironic sympathy for his characters. He is not indifferent to human conflict but uses humor and irony to stress the absurdity of these conflicts, acted out against the backdrop of an indifferent universe. Such a spectacle creates a sense of helplessness that can only inspire wistful amusement.
In his technical mastery of the short story. Machado was decades ahead of his contemporaries and can still be considered more modern than most of the modernists themselves. That his stories elicit such strong and diverse reactions today is a tribute to their richness, complexity, and significance.
The story is a simple one-of love lost and love found. Of love lost by Estêvão, amiable but vacillating, who is bemused by his own romantic posturing, and by Jorge, superficial and calculating. Of love found by Luis Alves, whose self-possession and determination seem destined to carry him far. The love of all three men is the proud and beautiful Guiomar, sure of her own heart but unsure, until faced by rival claims, of where to bestow it -- a foreshadowing of Capitú, the intriguing heroine of Dom Casmurro.
"English-speaking readers," says Helen Caldwell in the Foreword, "who are already acquainted with Machado de Assis will welcome this latest addition to the translated novels. True, it is a period piece; but its quaintness is a charm to carry us back to the Rio de Janeiro of the 1850s -- to vanished courtly elegance arid attitudes.... Now, we too can know what drew [Assis] back to this early tale, for The Hand and the Glove recreates in English the elegant background, the charming heroine, the comedy, and the light-hearted ebullience of the Portuguese original."