In "The Nose," Gogol is making fun of a society that is so obsessed with status that anyone—or anything—with the outward insignia of an important official passes muster. Even something as nightmarish or ludicrous as a nose detached from a human face and dressed as a State Councilor causes envy, admiration, and feelings of inferiority in onlookers—every emotion, basically, except those that you'd expect a normal person to feel. Like fear. Or, come on, at least surprise. Even the owner of the nose himself is scared to speak to it because it looks like it outranks him. Gee, the whole "social class" thing is starting to look pretty silly, isn't it?
The story should really be read as the tragic tale of an ambitious nose whose rise in the world is thwarted by a jealous rival.
The object of the satire in the story isn't Kovalev and the middling civil servants like him who obsesses over status, but actually status and ranking themselves.