introduction: this article is derived from the lecture given in september 9th 2008, during the celebration of the "latin american day of epilepsy", which was organized by the brazilian association of epilepsy, under the presidency of doctor laura guilhoto, and took place in the state congress of s？o paulo, at the franco montoro hall. methods: by presenting some aspects of machado de assis' life, the aim here is to understand the structure of brazilian society in the 19th century, as well as the critical unveiling strength of his work. results: the biography of the writer allows us to have a model of a man and an artist, who surpassed his imposed social and personal barriers in a specific historical circumstance, including the relative questions to his health. the effort and the fight of machado de assis are very significant, and we must always remember that until nowadays it is not "natural" to win preconceptions, to move socially or to get equal opportunities. conclusions: the achievements made by machado de assis during his life are exemplary. he has never surrogated, as the "rest of the consecrated personalities" do, which comfortably installed in the fame and surrounded by the conformism, always forget about the problems of the common people.