[A]n idler, a card-sharp, even a criminal would be acceptable to them in society, providing he had a fine name, even though his features were those of his mother’s footman rather than his father. But a merchant is a pariah… However, what concern is it of mine: let them all rot… [Wokulski’s reflections]. (64)
The Doll features many representatives of the aristocracy, including the Łęckis (who aspire to belong there), the Krzeszowskis, Duchess Zasławska, Kazimierz Starski, Julian Ochocki, Countess Karolowa, the Marshal, Baron Dalski, Kazimiera Wąsowska, the Prince, and numerous background characters buzzing around in Warsaw’s salons, concert halls and at charity balls. This social class is criticised in the novel more than any other. The activity of this group is basically limited to socializing and excessive use of patriotic slogans, as exemplified by the Prince with his constant repetition of the phrase this unfortunate country. In fact, the novel’s aristocrats and gentry live like parasites and are noticeably hypocritical in their approach to money and customs: they no longer hold land properties, but still try to follow the feudal order, cultivating traditions based on strict class division. They look down on those who busy themselves increasing the very capital they are dependent on. An exception to the rule is Duchess Zasławska, who manages her own estate in a manner that is both informed and up-to-date, successfully combining the best of the aristocratic and gentry tradition and the modern capitalist economy. Overall, however, the nobility no longer plays any significant part as a political class or social elite. In The Doll, their only weapons to fend off the democratisation process are conventions and the tradition – but used only in an instrumental way. Their extravagance, which impresses the common crowd so much, is actually nothing more than living on credit. This fact makes the whole social class an easy object of ridicule, with individuals more than likely to run into debt.