The article is an analysis of Boleslaw Prus' classical short story 'Barrel Organ' (Katarynka) and contains two trains of thoughts. The first one reconstructs the historical-cultural context connected with the title playing mechanism, exhibits its role in building the modern awareness of artists and critics for the connection of technology and art, treatment of art as a merchandise, and for the relationship between high and popular art. Such problems prove vital for the literary positivism, in which a high artistic level mingled with social use of literature, while the problem concerning a man's necessity of art (in its aesthetic and not only cognitive dimension) was left aside. The second thought touches the novel's structure, and reveals its symmetric patterns with a marked ideological provenance. Sharpness of meaning oppositions is here permanently violated, and final conclusions prove that this plain humorous tale in question exhibits Prus' conviction that capitalism and democracy made literature a part of the market, devoiding it of the obvious social functions, especially cognitive and didactic - all inseparable from positivistic realism poetics.