But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes.
As you can guess, this analysis will focus on Yoon Seung-Won, the protagonist’s younger brother. We don’t know much about him as he only appears in two chapters (37 and 44) hence it is quite difficult to discern this character. Since Yoon Seungho’s father is responsible for our seme’s tragic and painful past, we have to question the role played by the brother. Does he know that his father used Yoon Seungho as a scapegoat in order to escape the purge? Does he know what the father really wants? Or is he using his father’s name for his own interest? That’s why I will try to define his personality and judge his actions. Is he an accomplice of the father or is he just used by the latter? He could also be innocent.
Just like Jung In-Hun, Seung-Won’s existence is introduced indirectly with a letter.
In the chapter 36, the valet Kim has been entrusted a letter written by father Yoon, but the younger master requested a quick reply. We shouldn’t forget that the introduction of the poem in the chapter 4 served to reveal the duplicity of the teacher as we had two different opinions about the value of the poem. Here, the purpose is different as we have no idea about the content. However, this little scene illustrates the relationship between Yoon Seungho and his younger brother. First, it is clear that the latter has always attempted to get close to Yoon Seungho through letters, as the assistant Kim mentions “this one”. This means that the brother must have sent other messages before, which is confirmed later in chapter 37. However, in this scene, the butler says that this letter comes from father Yoon indicating that Seung-Won used his father’s name. Furthermore, this time there is a huge difference, because the domestic Kim has been requested to deliver the letter personally and to ask for an answer. This gesture outlines that Seung-Won knows the importance of the loyal valet Kim in Seungho’s life. He hopes that through the valet’s words and influence, his request can be fulfilled.
Then the reader senses a certain urgency behind Seung-Won’s action. It was, as though the noble was desperate to get something from his notorious brother. Besides, the beholder can also feel that the brother is trying to ignore Seungho’s past, to do, as if nothing bad had happened before, because the letter as such symbolizes a request and not an apology or a heartfelt message. We can conclude that the brother shows a lack of sensitivity and a certain egoism in his attitude. He is definitely selfish, because he has been “pestering” Yoon Seungho without showing empathy to his past. There are no comforting words coming from the valet’s mouth. One might argue that the brother has no idea about the father’s betrayal. However, we can refute this objection with the following point: the incident with the top-knot and the abandonment from the father. Since it has become a famous topic as rumor, it is impossible that Seung-Won has been left in the dark. He knows that his father rejected Seungho and no longer considered him as his son. Furthermore, the fact that he and his father had to leave the family mansion, the younger master could only realize the father’s gesture: he was a coward running away from his responsibility. Who would leave the main mansion behind because of the eldest son? Actually, the most natural thing would have been the other way: the father should have sent the son away due to his sodomy, yet it was the eldest master with his family who moved to the countryside. In other words, Seung-Won is well aware of the meaning of his father’s actions, even if he doesn’t know the whole truth. Therefore Seung-Won can’t be described as innocent because he never sided with his brother but remained by his father’s side.
After receiving the message from Kim, Seungho burns the letter without even opening it. Notice that he didn’t even destroy it in his room by attempting to maintain a certain dignity and respectability. No, he burnt it in the open, right in front of the servants, among the leaves. This attitude sends many signals. First, it is demonstrating that he has an idea about the content of the letter. The “request” didn’t go unnoticed, Seungho could discern the younger brother’s selfishness. Then it displays that the noble feels no emotional attachment to his “family member”. His gesture outlines too that he has no ties with Seung-Won. For him, they don’t exist or strictly speaking, they don’t belong to the same family. I would go far as to say that he considers his brother and father as garbage. That’s why he lets the message burn among the fallen leaves. As you can see, in just two pictures, I was able to describe the dynamic between Seungho and his brother and even display a little Seung-Won’s personality.
Since Seungho ignored his brother like in the past and Seung-Won was quite desperate to get an answer, his unannounced visit is no surprise. In fact, this reinforces the impression that Seung-Won is quite under pressure himself and needs his brother’s help no matter what, which signifies that Seungho has the upper hand. Observe that it is already late, but the younger master doesn’t care at all, reinforcing the bad impression we had before: quite rude and self-centered.
The visit means that Seung-Won needed to call his elder brother personally in order to pressure the latter so that the powerful noble would rekindle his relationship with him and the father. What caught my attention is that Seung-Won only paid his brother a visit the moment he had no other option left. It looks like he never visited him before, he thought that letters would be enough to amend their broken relationship. This indicates that Seung-Won has no idea about the real impact on the father’s abandonment in Seungho’s past. He is clueless when it comes to his brother’s suffering. Maybe he thinks that since Seungho has been left at the main mansion, his elder brother has been enjoying a comfortable position so he has been compensated for the humiliation suffered and the abandonment. He may consider it as a compensation for Seungho’s pain. This would explain why he doesn’t feel the need to comfort his brother. But this is just a speculation from my part.
However, this raises the question: does the younger brother really know what happened back then? He knows that Seungho became the scapegoat and was sacrificed in order to save the family as it is revealed during their conversation. Here, Seungho was reminding his brother that his father was the one who condemned him for sodomy, hence he was left behind. If you pay attention the brother’s reaction, you’ll notice his embarrassment and awkwardness. The man is sweating because he doesn’t want to be reminded of the past.
Moreover, he is avoiding his brother’s sharp gaze displaying his guilty conscience. That’s why I come to the conclusion that the brother knew about the intention behind his father’s action and didn’t stop him. From my perspective, the father must have explained his son what he was about to do. He would create a scandal with the eldest son and cut his topknot because of his supposed “homosexuality” in order to divert the king’s attention and save their family. But my belief is that Seungho had to suffer more than the humiliation and rejection. He was raped which the brother doesn’t know. In reality, the father sold his eldest son in order to save his own skin and explained his cowardice to Seung-Won as a normal sacrifice. I have the impression that Seung-Won has been left in the dark in certain aspects which is somehow confirmed in the last episode. Here, Seung-Won has no idea what the elder brother sent to his father. He was happy, when he received a letter handed over by Kim
This smile brings to light naivety and innocence. He has no idea about the content of the paper which is in reality the ruined painting of Seungho having a threesome. More striking is that the father never let the younger brother see the content of the paper. However, he blames the brother, when the father doesn’t leave his room in order to bid farewell.
Seungho is the cause for the father’s neglect which shows that he is really clueless why the brother would resent so much the father. The younger son acts as if Seungho is to blame for the father’s fury. There is definitely a lack of sensitivity and a certain naivety exuding from the younger master. But he is not so innocent either compared to Baek Na-Kyum. He is a liar , because the illness is just an excuse. He is quite daring to ask his brother to pay a visit to their father. He knows the true signification of this request, which is the reason why Seungho laughs it off and refuses. The brother is willing to act as a messenger for the father, since in reality, Seungho’s support would help him as well. He expects from the powerful noble so much and has never done anything for him in return.
This selfishness and rudeness is visible when he tried to enter Seungho’s bedchamber. He used his position as lord to mistreat Kim by threatening him and accusing him to lie, to ignore his words,
only Baek Na-Kyum’s voice was able to stop him which caught him by surprise.
That’s why at the end, I judge Seung-Won as an accomplice and pawn at the same time. He is no innocent in Seungho’s suffering, as he never expressed any comforting words during their meeting, he only wants the past to be swayed under the carpet and ensures that his father can be able to return to the main domain. He was an accomplice in the father’s request, because he knew that he would get some benefit himself. However, he is also a pawn as he has no real idea how far his father is willing to use him for his own interest. The father didn’t tell everything to Seung-Won. All the actions Seung-Won did (the letters, the visit) manifest a certain simplicity. He can’t really deceive people, especially his brother with his lies. His smile at the end of the chapter 36 reveals a naivety and innocence therefore I judge Seung-Won as someone who can be easily manipulated, especially by double-faced ones like Jung In-Hun. Their ways will cross and I can imagine that he will become the teacher’s next target and victim. The young man is not intelligent and cunning enough to perceive people’s lies and manipulation, maybe due to his selfishness. He feels entitled due to his social status and can use his position to get what he wants.
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Only after the second season, I have finally understood the true role played by rumors which are strongly intertwined with reputation. The latter is what others think or believe about people. As you can detect, notoriety is linked to appearances and image. Striking is that I had already sensed that reputation and responsibility were stark connected to each other in season 1, hence I had written this essay. Yet, I had misinterpreted certain aspects which I am correcting now.
As I had demonstrated before, the chapters 39 and 40 were focused on responsibility. Yoon Seungho was determined to become Baek Na-Kyum’s guardian, which he announced in three different occasions:
He scolded his maids for not treating Baek Na-Kyum properly, although the latter had slept in the master’s bedroom and the servants knew that.
The lord sent the low-born to his own tailor so that he could get expensive winter clothes
When he questioned the scholar’s intentions, he wanted to outline that contrary to Jung In-Hun, he would become responsible for the painter. Unconsciously, he put a red dot on the painter’s forehead, a sign for a bride. Yet his true goal was to push the painter to ponder about his actual situation. He should realize that he did expect something from his learned sir. Since he had helped him to find a sponsor, the painter hoped, the scholar would become reliable for him, as he was just a low-born.
As you can see, the noble acted like a responsible man before announcing it to Baek Na-Kyum. In the kitchen, the negative comments from the maids made the master realize that the artist’s status was affected due to his connection with Yoon Seungho. He was the target of bad remarks, because the young artist was wearing the lord’s own shirt. For the first time, the aristocrat was confronted with the negative consequences of reputation and image. The main lead might be fine with his bad notoriety, but it is different for Baek Na-Kyum, as the latter is just a commoner. Yoon Seungho witnessed how the low-born claimed to be an artist, but he was not perceived as such. By giving him new clothes, the main lead wanted to demonstrate that the artist was not a servant, he had a special status. However, this incident was relevant for another reason. Due to the master’s reprimand, the gossips about Yoon Seungho’s household disappeared, hence Jihwa’s servant couldn’t get new information about his childhood friend. (chapter 41). Consequently, the author showed us in chapter 38 and 39 the origins of rumors and their function in the story.
Striking is that although the lord wanted to become responsible, he didn’t accompany the low-born right away, but sent him to the tailor with his own valet, before appearing himself. What caught my attention is that right from the start, the tailor doubted Kim’s words.
The tailor was very suspicious and kept asking questions to Kim. On the other hand, we have to wonder why Yoon Seungho didn’t follow the commoners right away. In my opinion, he changed his mind due to the tailor. First, the lord must have realized afterwards that the shop owner would doubt the valet’s words, as he had witnessed how his own maids would look down on the artist. Therefore, he must have anticipated that the tailor would have a similar reaction: he would suspect the veracity of the order. And he was right about this assumption, like the following tailor’s comment exposes it: Hence Yoon Seungho decided to join them. Moreover, the main lead is a very possessive and jealous man. While getting dressed, he must have recognized that the tailor would get close to his lover by measuring him too. Note that it was the first question the lord asked, when he penetrated the room. This definitely exposed that the noble was thinking a lot about this task. Moreover, his gaze was instantly directed at the tailor and his hand. This displays that the main lead had already envisioned the measuring and disliked the idea that someone else would see his partner so closely. Striking is that his late arrival truly outlined the artist’s importance in Yoon Seungho’s life, which couldn’t escape the tailor’s notice. Imagine, the lord was ensuring himself that everything was done properly. To sum up, the master had two reasons to join the butler and the artist. He desired to make sure that Baek Na-Kyum was treated properly, at the same time he needed to keep other men away. He had to protect the painter’s reputation: he was no servant, but an artist and his companion! Through his words said in front of the tailor, he deliberately unveiled the nature of their relationship. He knew that the tailor would catch this insinuation. In my eyes, it was not just an unconscious expression of love (the lord was not aware of his affection), but also a conscious choice. As a lord, he desired to defend Baek Na-Kyum’s position as a painter and as his lover. That’s why Yoon Seungho became responsible.
What caught my attention is that the shop owner uses the expression “I’ve never heard of…”, it insinuates that he also talks a lot with other merchants and customers. Besides, the gossiping attitude of the tailor is also confirmed in the chapter 41:
Notice that when Min described the tailor as loose-lipped, he was criticizing the main lead and reminding him to pay more attention to his image and appearances. However, Yoon Seungho remained indifferent, as he has never paid attention to rumors, because he is well aware that they never reflect truth. For he never cared about gossips, he had no problem to have a foreplay at the tailor’s shop. All these gestures and information led me to the following conclusion. The chapter 39 and 40 announced a turning point in Yoon Seungho’s life. By becoming responsible for the painter, he would create new rumors. Remember how he had been portrayed so far: (chapter 1)
(chapter 10) (chapter 13) (chapter 18)
(chapter 22) (chapter 33)
What do these gossips have in common? They all portray the wealthy main lead as a bad man. He is a man with no integrity and honor. Besides, he has a bad personality as well. And this observation made me realize the true function of these rumors in the story. The lord’s negative reputation through grapevines is created for only one purpose. It is to isolate him from everyone. He has such a bad notoriety not only among nobles, but also among commoners. That’s why Baek Na-Kyum didn’t want to be connected to him in the first episode and lied to Yoon Seungho. This also explicates why Heena noona rejects him. Therefore we have to question ourselves about the origins about these rumors. Who started them? As you can imagine, I believe that there are two people responsible for these grapevines, for gossips circulate among the local aristocracy and others among the commoners, yet their nature diverges.
As you can anticipate, in my opinion, Min is the one spreading these rumors among the nobles. First, in chapter 36 Black Heart is using rumors to manipulate his pawn: Besides, the childhood friend is often mentioning rumors as well, and since Jihwa is Black Heart’s pupil, this could be judged as another proof for my interpretation. Under this new perspective, this explicates why Jihwa, who is close to The Joker, could mention this gossip to Yoon Seungho in chapter 18: Moreover, I believe, Black Heart told this to the second lead as well. He desired to portray the main character in a negative light so that the red-haired aristocrat would turn his attention to him. Let’s not forget that in chapter 18, the childhood friend claimed that he had been using Yoon Seungho, indicating that besides their sexual relationship, Jihwa managed to make some deal. And now, you understand why The Joker is using gossips against the main lead, which became obvious in chapter 33. He imagined that he could isolate Yoon Seungho and make him feel miserable. This is no coincidence, when the main character heard this grapevine, , he replied this: He desired his childhood friend to tell the others that he didn’t fear this type of gossips. We have to envision that these words must have reached the Joker’s ears. That’s why in chapter 33, he retaliated by using the painter as an excuse. Note that the nobles mentioned Baek Na-Kyum as gossip and while leaving they kept talking about another rumor: So when Min decided to meet the main lead in the woods, he envisioned that the protagonist would get upset because of the gossips concerning the incident at the tailor shop. Maybe if he confronted him directly, he would get another reaction: fear and pain. I would like to remind my readers that in my eyes, Min is suffering from an Antisocial Personality Disorder, this explicates his passion for manipulations, fear and misery. He tried to instill fear in the noble (“look, now you are even associated to a low-born!”) but he didn’t succeed. That’s why The Joker decided to have the painter killed right after. If the latter were to die, then Yoon Seungho would truly become lonely, especially after discovering that his childhood friend was the culprit. Let’s not forget that Min was present, when Jihwa showed a certain empathy for his lost friend despite their quarrel. The Joker recognized that their friendship was not ruined for good. And note that in chapter 76, he is using the same method again. He witnessed how Yoon Seungho showed leniency towards Jihwa despite his wrongdoings, as the lord didn’t punish him. Min is manipulating the second lead, making him believe that he has to listen to him, as the protagonist could target him. The Joker is using the second lead’s existential fear to separate both friends. Despite all his schemes, Min was not able to attach the red-haired aristocrat to himself. Furthermore, he even has to discover how Jihwa had sex with a low-born like Nameless and he would even listen to his words. No wonder why Min got infuriated in the end. Despite all his schemes, he was not able to control Jihwa and Yoon Seungho. Both escaped his manipulations. And now the readers should question themselves Black Heart’s true goal in all this. Why is he so determined to hurt the protagonist and to make him feel miserable? If he was able to hurt and control Yoon Seungho, he would become the ultimate puppet master. However, that’s what The Joker thinks. Remember what I wrote about Black Heart’s real weakness. The latter fears social norms and as such rumors. Strictly speaking, he pays attention to appearances despite his nihilistic tendencies. That’s why he smiles and laughs a lot. However, he has always envied Yoon Seungho for that reason. The latter has always remained impassible to social norms and rumors. He showed real courage and strength, because he never complied through peer group pressure. And the worst is that even Jihwa was willing to be associated to such a man, although the latter has a terrible reputation. I would even say that the bond between the two characters hasn’t been destroyed yet after all, although both figures kept hurting each other. Even after the abduction, the main lead didn’t retaliate against his friend. That’s why Min has to make Jihwa and Yoon Seungho miserable. He envies the protagonist, because he was capable to have such a friend. They have seen the worst from each other, yet they were able to remain friend, even Jihwa wanted to become Yoon Seungho’s lover. Moreover, now he is not hiding his relationship with Baek Na-Kyum. As you can imagine, the episode 76 made me realize Min’s defeat. The latter couldn’t stop Yoon Seungho from revealing his special relationship to the painter in front of commoners. He treated his lover like his wife and the town folks could witness it. Therefore this is no coincidence that episode 76 is connecting responsibility to rumors. The water and the music box are the evidences that Yoon Seungho is a responsible man. They reveal his integrity which stands in opposition to reputation. Integrity describes how you act, it is a characteristic of you regardless of who is watching. Finally, Yoon Seungho’s true personality is revealed to the world in chapter 76. He shows moral righteousness, courage, gentleness and responsibility. He allows a commoner to hug him, is willing to lower himself and listen to the low-born’s request: he needs his help. And during the second season Min’s only success was in chapter 54. Here, he could only wound the main lead, because the painter feared social norms as well. But now, it is no longer working on Baek Na-Kyum either. I believe, the trigger for this huge war is Baek Na-Kyum. I am still convinced that Black Heart is obsessed with the artist, because he wished that the artist would look at him the same way. Imagine this: The low-born showed pure desires, and neither the main lead’s terrible reputation nor his wrongdoings could disgust the artist so that the latter would leave Yoon Seungho’s side. As a psychopath/sociopath, Min can only resent the main lead.
As for the rumors among the commoner, Kim was responsible. He allowed the staff to talk badly about their master. In chapter 32, he never intervened in order to defend his master’s honor. Moreover, he influenced them with his words. After calling Baek Na-Kyum a no-good painter (chapter 11), the maid associated Baek Na-Kyum to a charlatan (chapter 17). Besides, I would like to outline that through his words, Kim encouraged the staff to show a disrespect towards the low-born. That’s why they started eating his food. Since, the valet never reprimanded them for their misconduct, it truly shows that Kim had no interest to protect his master’s interests and rights. He is the one who described Yoon Seungho as violent and with mood swings, because he used the incident with Jihwa’s topknot. He had a reason for spreading these rumors. Exactly like Min, he desired to isolate Yoon Seungho so that the latter would always rely on him. He would show care and concern in front of his master, as he knew his true personality: he was gentle and considerate. And now, it is time to focus once again on chapter 40. Note that when the protagonists left the tailor shop, the butler didn’t follow them: Why? It’s because he needed to speak with the tailor alone. He asked him to never reveal the foreplay to others. That’s why Kim never witnessed this scene: There is no ambiguity that the butler must have claimed that he was doing it in order to protect his master’s reputation. Imagine, he had a sexual relationship with a commoner… what a scandal, especially in that historical period. However, his true intention was different. If the town folks were to discover that their lord would make no distinction between nobles and commoners, and he wouldn’t look down on the low-born, the commoners would judge their lord in a better light. They would realize that he showed tolerance, open-mindedness, honesty but more importantly reliability. I see another evidence that Kim employed gossips to reveal the visit to the tailor to Jung In-Hun. This is the reason why the scholar speaks of flourishing. Let’s not forget that he was the only one who knew about the order of winter clothes. And here, they had just been ordered. From my point of view, Kim hoped to create a quarrel between the learned sir and the painter. Another evidence for this evidence is perceptible in chapter 50: The valet’s words clearly imply that the conversation had become the topic of gossips. That’s why in chapter 45, Byeonduck introduced Kim in front of commoners spreading gossips. This is no coincidence. And this led me to realize two important elements. Right from the start, the author wanted to indicate the valet’s true personality. Kim was not only responsible for the rumors concerning his master, but also for the ambiguous status for Baek Na-Kyum. Furthermore, the butler thought, his trick had been successful, yet during his walk through the town, he discovered a new gossip. The town folks had already perceived a change of their lord’s behavior and connected it to a love affair. And this showed that the lord’s image was not that bad in reality. They still hoped that their lord would calm down and settle. They were even willing to accept Jihwa as the lord’s mistress. This truly revealed that they didn’t truly reject his homosexuality, rather his debauchery. In chapter 45, Kim discovered that Deok-Jae had ruined his plan. Kim was determined to ensure that Yoon Seungho would keep a bad reputation. The moment he was seen as a responsible man, he would no longer be isolated and rely on him. Moreover, the moment he was judged as responsible and he wouldn’t reject commoners, it becomes possible that the commoners complain to him and ask for his help. However, slowly Kim lost his pawns among the staff, so that he has no one to spread rumors. The maid questioned his authority and even defended her lord in chapter 67. She didn’t question Yoon Seungho’s reasoning, it was his right. This means that now he is considered as the real master of the mansion. Kim still used the male servants for his scheme in chapter 69, but in my opinion, he even lost their support, because nothing bad happened after their love session. And note that the domestic’s words are referring to rumor: The butler was no longer able to manipulate through rumors, hence he ends up alone in the backyard. Imagine, Kim can’t even use the loose-lipped tailor for his schemes, as the shop owner resents the butler for turning him into a liar and fool. That’s why we see him whispering to a client, when the lord is standing in front of his shop. Now, the tailor can talk to his heart content. Neither Kim nor Kim can ask him to remain quiet. And note that in chapter 76 Yoon Seungho is walking alone with his lover, hence when he helped his panicked lover, the commoners could witness how kind, selfless and generous Yoon Seungho was. Exactly like in chapter 40, he came later so that his behavior would outline the artist’s importance in the noble’s life. First, he sat on the ground to comfort his partner. Then after bringing to the planks of woods, Yoon Seungho took care of Baek Na-Kyum’s headgears. He made sure that his wife was properly covered and he would get water. Finally, he was even willing to buy an expensive music box, although Baek Na-Kyum never said anything. He acted as a responsible man which many people, commoners and nobles, could witness.
But what does it mean? The rebirth of the phoenix has been noticed by the town folks. But more importantly, they witness how the artist had a panic attack and how he screamed for Yoon Seungho’s help. The shop owners will certainly gossip about this incident and remember the painter’s disappearance which cause a huge ruckus in town. The commoners complained about the behavior of the lord’s servants. Back then, the rumors were that a servant had run away, however the tailor revealed that the lord’s lover was the painter. Hence I am expecting that the town folks will realize that Yoon Seungho’s lover was abducted. And since Jihwa had confessed in public the night before the artist’s disappearance, the commoners will realize what the ex-lover did, when he got rejected. And maybe that’s the reason why Min is able to bind Jihwa to him. If his crime was revealed to the commoners, the latter could definitely complain. And this story clearly reveals that reputation is nothing… what really matters is integrity. However, Jihwa needs to learn this lesson, but only through pain he will recognize this. That’s why he is still not listening to his conscience. This explicates why Black Heart reveals his true personality in chapter 76. He is selfish, stupid, but more importantly irresponsible, for he lets Jihwa become responsible for his own misdeeds.
And now, you understand why I can’t review my bad perception about Kim and Min. Both are cowards who hide behind rumors in order to manipulate people. At the same time, this method helps them to wash off their hands from their own misdeeds. In their mind, they can never be held responsible. The others are to blame, as they repeated their words or decided to listen to their words. However, they are forgetting that words are as such actions. They can’t escape their responsibility for their crimes: blackmail, perjury, murder, complicity of abduction. That’s why chapter 76 is so beautiful in the end, as it shows that despite the use of rumors, neither Kim nor Min were able to change the lord’s true personality, they just delayed the truth. He would do anything for his bride: spend a huge amount of money for something that even the king had not seen. The lord’s statement in chapter 40 became true. He took his responsibility as a man and transformed Baek Na-Kyum into his bride. And now…. new rumors will surface, and definitely reach Heena noona’s ears. How will she react? I don’t want to answer to that question, however you are more than welcome to give your opinion to this question.
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If you have already read the analysis about “Traces of “Dangerous liaisons” and “Justine: The Misfortunes of Virtue”, you know why I am now using the other manhwa “A Painter Behind The Curtain” created by Munamu. Both works have a lot in common, not only the historical setting but also the story as such. Both stories have a painter as a protagonist and the latter share a similar fate: a lot of suffering.
Since many are not familiar about A Painter behind the Curtain, I’ll just give a short summary. The story has 70 chapters but only 26 have been released in English. The main character is Ian Sconel, a talented painter who was sold as a child by his father to the Bardis, as soon as Mr. Bardi recognized his talents.
Since The Bardis have a long tradition of painters in their family, the father wanted to use the young boy’s talents in order to maintain the family’s reputation and their high lifestyle as renowned painters for the aristocracy. Mr. Bardi let his buyers think that his second son Jeremy was the genius one, whereas Ian Scornel was the one who created all the masterpieces. That’s why the author chose the title “behind the curtain”, as he painted the whole time hidden from the eyes of the others. The title is also referring to the meeting of Ian Sconel and the other protagonist, Mr. Raymond.
If we compare the two artists, we will notice that despite the different location (Italy-Joseon) both come from the bottom of the society. That’s the reason why the two men are illiterate.
Moreover the two felt the need to paint all the time as children.
Although they were both passionate about painting, Baek Na-Kyum’s drawings were limited to one subject: erotic pictures of sodomy. The difference is quite easy to understand: Baek Na-Kyum was raised at a gisaeng house, where sex was a common thing. Besides, this also outlines that the korean boy knew right from the start about his sexual orientation. For Ian, we discover that Mr. Bardi is sexually abusing him. So his homosexuality wasn’t determined right from the start. Little by little, Ian falls in love with Mr. Raymond because the latter treats him so well. But since servants confessing their love to Mr. Raymond are immediately fired, Ian has to hide his feelings for him. Baek Na-Kyum has also to hide his feelings in front of the lord, or better said, he has to fight against his repressed sexual desires (chapter 6), as he has been manipulated by the teacher Jung In-Hun that homosexuality is something filthy and immoral. (chapter 34)
The other common denominator is that the two men became victims of rape, (chapter 26) even if Ian was sexually abused quite often as he spent many years at the Bardis before getting “rescued” by Mr. Raymond.
Notice that during the rape, Ian has to listen to Mr. Bardi’s words that the latter is his benefactor, since he gives him the opportunity to paint and he has a roof over his head. All this leaves deep scars in the painter’s mind which explains why later he refuses to paint any longer.
The blond haired man vows not to paint any longer as he saw it as the cause for his misery and suffering, while Baek Na-Kyum was coerced by Jung In-Hun to abandon paintings due to the sodomy. The two painters have at some point kept their distance from their passion.
But let’s go back to Ian’s paintings. Ian is forced to paint what Bardi wants so he is limited in his creativity. Whereas Yoon Seungho also restraints the low-born in his creativity, since he has to paint sex scenes, Ian has to create religious paintings or scenes with nobles.
Both sponsors use their position to impose their will. The painters have no right to refuse and to choose their subjects based on their inclination or inspiration. This outlines their precarious situation as they are dependent on the sponsor. Yoon Seungho’s attitude does resemble Mr. Bardi’s behavior, yet there is another huge contrast too. Ian is kept captive in his room, can only get food if the picture is finished. That’s why he is often hungry and very skinny.
On the other hand, Yoon Seungho shows a certain favoritism because he placed Baek Na-Kyum right next to his bedroom and the former is even willing to eat his lunch with him. (chapter 11) Despite the difference, they both have to please their sponsor with their work. If there is disobedience, then there is also punishment:
(chapter 13) The low-born was about to get the straw mat beating, until the lord changed his mind. However, just like Ian, the young man had been slapped and even pushed by his “sponsor” before. Ian’s suffering lasts much longer because he arrived at the house as a child and he was already a young man, when he was able to leave this hell created by Bardi.
All these aspects are here dramatized, however this was the reality for painters in the past. Even Vincent Van Gogh couldn’t live properly as he had no real sponsor outside his family. Many painters had to adapt themselves to the taste of their “clients” in order to earn money that’s why many artists chose to paint following the trend and the rules. In other words, the painters’ creativity and curiosity for experiment were bounded, just like in the two fictions.
Baek Na-Kyum became a successful painter because he published many erotic books which the nobility was fond of.
Sure, he had to publish them under a pseudonym, nevertheless his books were quite famous as he was able to survive as a drunk without painting any longer. So even if the topic was taboo, aristocrats were quite interested in such drawings. In order to get attention from the nobility, Ian is also reminded by Henry, a noble, that he should paint based on the trend but this time, Ian refuses. Unlike Bardi and Yoon Seungho, Mr. Raymond gave him the freedom to paint based on his inclination.
The other disparity is that Yoon Seungho wanted to keep the paintings to himself, he never wanted to let people see Baek Na-Kyum’s talents or to earn money with it. It was as if he was determined to own the painter so that he could keep him hidden from people’s attention, as if he wanted to put him behind the curtain. And notice that the noble is not interested in encouraging the artist to develop his talents. (chapter 41) He was jealous and annoyed, when he saw the picture of Jung In-Hun’s inauguration so that he failed to see the talent and dedication in this different type of drawing. So there is a certain selfishness in the seme here but I am expecting that this will change. He could have noticed that the low-born’s talent is not just defined by sex and sodomy but his insecurities made him blind in that moment. Yet, this painting has been given to the loyal valet Kim so that it can get destroyed. But I feel that Kim might give it to his master or keep it. I have the feeling that this painting will play a bigger role in Baek Na-Kyum’s career later.
Now, people who haven’t read “A painter behind the curtain” might think that Yoon Seungho is the Joseon version of Bardi, however they are wrong. Actually, he is a mixture of Bardi (due to his selfish and violent side) and Mr. Raymond. If you look at the image where Mr. Raymond is looking at the painting, you’ll notice his fascination and admiration for the work created by Ian.
The so-called merchant is definitely moved by the creation and the gaze is again revealing the affects caused by the painting. He keeps starring at it, there is a certain calmness and relaxation oozing from his eyes. Just like Yoon Seungho, the bourgeois falls in love with Ian’s pictures. And little by little, he falls in love with the artist himself. As you can see, the paintings serve as a bridge between the two men, Yoon Seungho wants to find the man with the talented hands and at some point Mr. Raymond will realize Mr. Bardi’s fraud and the origin of the paintings: Ian.
However, Mr. Raymond’s kindness and gentleness is not selfless in reality. He needs the artist’s talents in order to get closer to the nobility and as such to power. Art and paintings are linked to power because rulers and even the Church used art in order to legitimate their authority.
At the same time, only painters working for the Church or the King had a rather comfortable life. Yet they had to paint what they were told to. Just like Yoon Seungho, the bourgeois is motivated by revenge but uses art as his tool and not sex. Mr. Raymond has a different approach therefore he needs Ian’s talent and help.
Mr. Raymond is not powerful like the lord from Joseon, since the merchant only belongs to the third state, the commoners. He wants to obtain power as he suffered injustice in his childhood.
His father was executed due to a scheme perpetrated by count Rothsildt. So far, he has internalized that only in a powerful position he can get revenge and protect himself and his family from any injustice. Since he is just a bourgeois, he is despised by the aristocrats, at the same time they seek his company as many nobles are facing financial issues which is historically correct. Just before the French Revolution, many bourgeois were even richer than nobles, especially many low nobles were impoverished… which reminds us of Jung In-Hun at the same time. So his role as a sponsor for a talented painter represents his way to get access to power. Like I have mentioned above, for kings talented painters are a tool for the securing their own power.
Since Mr. Raymond has to rely on Ian’s talent, he can’t behave like Yoon Seungho. He needs to win the painter’s trust hence he teaches him reading and writing. Striking is that Ian is compared to a cat,
whereas Baek Na-Kyum’s behavior reminded me more of a lamb. That’s why their position contrasts so much. Ian has the upper hand right from the start with Mr. Raymond and in Painter Of The Night, it is the opposite. Seungho can use his position as lord to force the man to paint, yet as time passes on, the situation reverses. At the end of the first season, Baek Na-Kyum has the upper hand in their relationship. Seungho wants to have the artist’s consent, when it comes to sex. He no longer uses his position as lord. (chapter 41)
This explains why Ian is given so much freedom by the bourgeois. As time passes on, Ian’s PTSD disappears and the artist can develop his own interest and change his techniques. Thanks to Mr. Raymond’s support, he can choose the topic of his paintings and the methods which announces a huge change and innovation in the art. Ian shows an interest for commoners or for landscapes.
The way he paints as well, reminds me a lot of the Impressionism, an art current characterized by relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.
Impressionism originates with a group of artists living around Paris whose independent exhibitions created a wave of scandal and attention at the end of the 19th Century. Famous painters from the impressionism are f. ex. Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Morisot. But Van Gogh and Cézanne were highly influenced by this art movement until they developed their own style. These painters decided not to follow the rules by the Art Academy which explains why many painters from that current struggled a lot. Only Renoir and Monet could become rich and successful before their death. And now, if you look at Ian’s paintings, you observe that Ian has the same thinking and approach as he paints on his impressions. Now, I am adding a picture where the beholder can view the paintings that the nobility liked.
The beholder observes the huge contrast as Ian no longer paints religious scenes or mythology, his focus is more or less on daily situations: they have less pathos and ooze more humbleness. But thanks to Raymond, Ian Sconel is able to catch the attention of a famous court painter. However, we shouldn’t forget that this young man wouldn’t have been able to develop his skills any further if Raymond had not entirely supported him.
That’s why the attitude of a sponsor is really important, he can brake or improve the artist’s talents.
Now, if we return our attention to Painter Of The Night, the reader notices that Yoon Seungho was only focused on getting new paintings for his own pleasure. The interest of the low-born never mattered. However, I sense that the lord might come to change his attitude and even help him to develop his talents. Just like in “A Painter Behind The Curtain”, I am expecting that the master will teach Baek Na-Kyum to write and read. Secondly, we know for sure that he has connection to the Royal Academy
and Baek Na-Kyum has for the first time painted on another topic: the inauguration of the low noble Jung In-Hun. (chapter 44) The drawing was detailed and totally different from the erotic pictures. So I am expecting that Yoon Seungho turns into a real sponsor and becomes more and more like Mr. Raymond. However, the latter will have to choose at some point between power or love. By taking care of Ian so well, he wanted him to open up but at the end, Raymond fell in love with the genius too. While one artist could incite arousal with his creations, the other could calm the resentful merchant. Strictly speaking, their art had a huge impact on the life of the two semes.
Despite the suffering and their tragic past, both artists have the chance to meet someone who will help them to get recognition for their talents and to become more independent. But just like I have been showing all along, the painter’s life in the past relied a lot of sponsoring. The French novelist Emile Zola wrote a novel called “L’Oeuvre” (The work) where he described the struggling of an impressionist. The latter was determined to create a masterpiece with innovations and to get recognition but failed at the end. Zola, a close friend of Cézanne, was inspired by his friend’s life and the impressionism, yet this book became the reason why Cézanne cut ties with his childhood friend as the painter Claude Lantier was portrayed in a rather negative way: he was obsessed and neglected everything else including his family. The reasons why I am mentioning this work are the following. First, it outlines the importance of a sponsor and confirmed what the manhwas are telling in their fiction. Then it reveals the difficulties the avant-garde painters had in order to get accepted. Finally here comes the biggest reason. I had to read this book when I was a high school student and through this work, I came to understand the significance of paintings. That’s how I discovered the impressionism and fell in love with their works. Because of this novel, I could finally understand better why innovations in art movement were related to a fight against Academy and rules. Painters are indeed fighters because what they do can go against social norms and etiquette. That’s why their life is so difficult. The rape, the exploitation might be fiction in the manhwas, yet they symbolize the struggles painters from unknown origins had in order to make a breakthrough.
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This essay represents the last part of the comparison between the theater play “Spring Awakening” from Frank Wedekind with the manhwa Painter Of The Night. In order to be able to compare the characters from the German theater play with the ones from the Korean manhwa, it is important to give a short explanation about the characters from “Spring Awakening” and the role they played in the story. We have the main protagonist Melchior Gabor, his parents and the school director Sunstroke.
Melchior Gabor is a teenager with good grads at school hence he is very confident. Furthermore he is a free spirit hence he knows a lot about sexuality through books and observations. The reason why he stands so much in opposition to Wendla Bergmann is that his mother wasn’t strict compared to the other parents. She believed in her son’s maturity and intelligence and imagined that he wouldn’t do anything stupid. However, as you know it, Melchior Gabor will force himself on Wendla Bergmann. Moreover Melchior is the friend of Moritz Stiefel (Boots). The latter has problems with his grads therefore later, the pessimistic teenager decides to commit suicide because he is expelled from school. He is unable to face the disdain from his parents and the humiliation. But before killing himself, Melchior Gabor tried to help him in many ways, like giving his own homework or giving him a lesson about sex education. This led to the situation that Moritz Stiefel asked Melchior to write notes for the sex education because the former is rather shy and embarrassed. However, after Moritz’s suicide, the adults which means the parents, the school director and the teachers put the blame on Melchior because of the notes about the sex education found in the belongings of Moritz. They claim that the student did it due to the shock he received, when he saw the “vulgar and dirty” papers. As you already know, the real cause was the pressure to perform well coming from the family and the school. Moritz was well aware that he needed to rank among the first 60th students in order to avoid the expel. Even the school director Sunstroke admits this:
“because we have to protect our institution from the devastation of a suicide epidemic that has already broken out in several high schools…” (Act 3, scene 1)
As you can see, the pressure to perform is in fact related to the increasing number of suicides among the students underlining the extreme pressure put on the teenagers. And here, the school director Sunstroke reminds me of Jung In-Hun due to their similar profession and attitude. They blame others for their own failure, especially a teenager which is the perfect target. Jung In-Hun also made the painter feel guilty and dirty with his brainwashing and later with the rejection and abandonment. Since he was born to be a prostitute, the teacher didn’t need to feel responsible for him. Sunstroke doesn’t need to feel guilty for Moritz’s suicide as there is Melchior as justification. Strangely is that both characters are also associated to the same metaphor: the smelling air due to the lack of opened windows. When Jung In-Hun is seen in the library, , the beholder never see any window, only books or walls. In “Spring Awakening”, Sunstroke asks to have a window opened during a meeting but he is unable to have his wish fulfilled. Either one teacher doesn’t want to have his back facing the opened window or one window was boarded up. This underlines their lack of connection to the youth, they are both living in their own world, disconnected from the students or from people in general.
But let’s go back to Melchior Gabor. Instead of changing their methods, the school and as such the adults choose to turn the main protagonist as a scapegoat which leads the father to abandon his son and sends him to a reformatory. His mother Mrs Gabor agrees to her husband’s decision the moment she discovers that her son slept with Wendla. Rejected by society and by his own parents, Melchior escapes from the reformatory and goes to the cemetery. There he sees Wendla’s tomb and in his despair, he begins to hallucinate, where he sees his dead friend Moritz. He is about to commit suicide, when a masked man appears and convinces him to keep living. We have to understand that this hooded man personifies life as such. The masked man tells Melchior how the generation conflict could have been mitigated. The parents should have responded a little to the children’s needs and talked openly to them and simultaneously they should have shown them what was out there in the world. So despite the rejection and abandonment, Melchior decides to follow him and discover the world. He chooses life over his friend.
As you can imagine, we can draw a lot of parallels between Melchior Gabor and Yoon Seungho. Both know about sex quite well, then they are betrayed and abandoned by their own family. Besides, both become the scapegoat for the wrongdoings committed by adults. Both rape, although it was never their intention in the first place. Then their personality is quite similar: they have a huge influence on others (leadership), they are very observant, they read a lot. In other words, the two young men are intelligent free spirits. Moreover, despite the huge pain of losing his friends Wendla and Moritz, Melchior chose life in the end, just like Yoon Seungho. The only first huge difference is that Yoon Seungho is not a social person as he has no real friend. Even his childhood friend Jihwa doesn’t know him that well as the latter always keeps his own thoughts and emotions to him. However, we can conclude that Yoon Seungho’s fate resembles a lot Melchior’s.
Nonetheless, it is important to look closer to their similarities. Strangely, both have a huge libido. Melchior started having erections much earlier compared to his friends (Act 1, scene 2), just like Seungho is able to have sex with Baek Na-Kyum for a very long time. (chapter 33). Their age might differ but they both experience “Spring Awakening”. When Melchior is lying in the hay loft, Wendla joins him. Although he attempts to send her away, she refuses to leave him hence he can’t resist her any longer and starts kissing her. She objects that they don’t love each other that’s why they shouldn’t kiss, however Melchior replies that love doesn’t exist, there is only egoism. In other words, he implies that love is not required during intercourse, they should just follow their impulses. We can observe that he is following his sexual natural instincts. This reminds us of the scene, where Yoon Seungho has sex with Jihwa at the pavilion.
Here the excited noble is also following his instincts. For the first time, he is aroused and feels sex with a man quite exciting. He is neglecting his partner’s needs as well. He experiences something new. He feels pleasure for the first time, he also perceives himself differently. Just like Melchior, the noble is only focusing on sex and doesn’t pay attention to love. He is selfish just like the teenager. Striking is the resemblance in the location, a pavilion and a hay loft are quite similar, since they are open.
However, the huge difference is that Melchior has sex just one time with Wendla and he actually rapes her. With Jihwa, it was different because this was consensual sex and Jihwa did love his childhood friend. Furthermore, Yoon Seungho makes another experience: he makes love to Baek Na-Kyum after the latter confesses his love to him mistaken him for his learned sir. Yoon Seungho thought that he could just have sex, nevertheless he ended up feeling the difference between sex and love. They made love and they had not just sex, though Seungho didn’t realize the distinction. Melchior in the theater play never got to know what making love feels. However, we could say that this represents the second step in the Spring Awakening of our Korean protagonist. Unlike Melchior, Yoon Seungho can no longer say that love doesn’t exist, since the young artist confessed his love … yet the master is unaware of his own feelings.
The readers know that Yoon Seungho rapes the low-born at the pavilion, just like Melchior raped the innocent girl at the hay loft. Both never planned it, even if we can observe a difference between both rapes. Yoon Seungho had planned to have sex with the man there, he thought that Baek Na-Kyum had remembered their night together. Since he thought that the artist had made a painting of their night together, he imagined that he had accepted him as his sex partner. Melchior initially tried to fight his instincts, as he wanted to send his friend away but she refused unaware of the reason for his rejection. In other words, the teenagers acted on his instincts, on an impulse. Yoon Seungho raped the young man out of frustration and not because of a sudden attraction. Besides, Baek Na-Kyum refused more categorically than Wendla, he slapped the noble, whereas she tried to argue with her partner. They shouldn’t kiss because they don’t love each other. The stronger resistance can be explained very easily. The painter knew what the man wanted, whereas Wendla had no idea what was going to happen to her. Unlike Wendla, Baek Na-Kyum received sex education because he was raised at a brothel, furthermore he knew about homosexual sex. Strangely, both rapes start with kisses which shows that there was more than just sex. A kiss serves as a trigger for arousal but reveals a certain tenderness.
Right after the rape, Yoon Seungho calms down and regrets it hence he tries to redeem himself by taking care of Baek Na-Kyum.
For Melchior, it is a little different. Some time passes until he sends a letter to Wendla which is caught by her mother. However, both want to take their responsibility for their wrongdoing. When the sex marathon occurred which led to the uke’s exhaustion, here again the lord wanted to redeem himself for overlooking the health condition of his partner. Hence he made sure that he had some water and have the doctor fetched and was ready to buy some expensive medicine.
Another resemblance is the role played by Melchior in the discovery of sexuality. We know that Seungho forced the uke to look at his facial expressions while having sex with him so that the latter would no longer deny his sexual orientation. In the theater play, Wendla asked Melchior to beat her because she had never experienced it before. She was curious about it, Melchior was quite surprised by her request but decided to follow her request. Through him, she discovered her sado-masochist disposition. Both Wendla and Baek Na-Kyum realized what they like, though the girl has no idea that it is related to sex. On the other hand, Yoon Seungho contrasts so much to Melchior because the latter ran away after beating the girl. He felt embarrassed and had no idea how to deal with those feelings. Yoon Seungho has never been embarrassed about sex and he has no problem to use violence as well. Sure, he is much older than Melchior and as such he has experienced much more than the teenager.
Both young men are excluded from the family. The elder master accused his son of sodomy and cut off his topknot which created a huge scandal. Then he moved to another mansion in the countryside. Melchior Gabor becomes the gossip because of Moritz’s suicide and of the notes he left to him. The father, Mr. Gabor, declares that Melchior needs to be sent to a reformatory which could be considered as an exile. So there is a physical distance between their relatives and the protagonists in both stories. Another similarity is the cowardice of the fathers.
Mr. Gabor blames his wife for their son’s wrongdoings, while he never showed any interest in education before. He could have explained more about sex education but he never did. The father prefers to save his family’s reputation by abandoning his son than to help his son to take his responsibility for Wendla. Both parents are selfish. The result is the same: Yoon Seungho and Melchior felt betrayed and abandoned by their family. On the other hand, we have no idea about Seungho’s mother. Was she alive back then? Did she become a victim of the purge because her parents could have been involved? The mother could have played a role in Seungho’s suffering as well. Either she betrayed him like Melchior’s mother or she became herself a victim of her husband’s action.
Then we come to the ending. Melchior chose life at the end, although he was suffering so much due to his guilty conscience, the loss of two friends, the abandonment and the disowning by his own family. Yoon Seungho must have felt the same way, even worse, since I suppose that he was himself raped. Besides, I have the feeling that Yoon Seungho could have been responsible for the death of the servants (forced to erase every trace of a possible participation in a conspiracy). We only hear that the servants were replaced. Either they moved with the elder master or they were “removed”. But there is a huge difference: Yoon Seungho chose to get revenge on his father by keeping his reputation as a famous sodomite so that the father would be constantly reminded of his own sins and cowardice. Furthermore, Yoon Seungho was barely alive all these years because of his passivity. He was just surviving hence he constantly looked at his courtyard while smoking at the window. Yet there is the appearance of the masked man in the manhwa as well: the drawings created by Baek Na-Kyum. Through the erotic books, Seungho came back to life as he was able to get aroused. Yoon Seungho had no idea who was the creator of these beautiful paintings, however they became the reason for discovering joy in his life. That’s why we can see the huge smile on the noble, when he meets the low-born for the first time. So the meeting of the hooded man happened before the story in the Painter Of The Night starts. And now, you can perceive the contrast: the chronology is totally different. Since the theater play ends with the meeting of the hooded man, we have to imagine that the manhwa could be seen as a continuation of “Spring Awakening”. This is what Melchior is going to experience later: rediscover the pleasure in sex, discover the existence of love and finally have a companion by his side. The hooded man takes his mask away and gets an identity: Baek Na-Kyum. The latter is the reason why Yoon Seungho smiles again, why he can feel emotions again, while he was living more or less like a robot in the past.
The master actually experiences two kind of “Spring Awakening”: the first one with Jihwa and the second one with Baek Na-Kyum in the bedchamber of the low-born. Sure, his “revenge” on the father kept him alive all this time, while Melchior is far more desperate and feels more guilty than the lord at the cemetery. However, you could see that both works have a lot in common, not only because of the topics but also the resemblance of the characters. And the theater play was written 200 years ago which shows how actual it is. The hypocrisy, the pressure on students to perform well, the discovery of sexuality among teenagers and its repercussion, the taboo linked to homosexuality will never disappear.
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In the second part, I’ll compare the mentality and the protagonists from the manhwa with these from the German theater play “Spring awakening” written by Frank Wedekind. I know that many are not familiar with Wedekind’s work but it is definitely interesting to observe the similarities between both works.
I am well aware that Byeonduck has not been inspired by this theater play, however through this comparison I would like to point out that her manhwa has truly the potential to become a classic in the long run due to the topics she covers: acceptance of homosexuality, the conservative moral values oppressing people’s identity and tabooing sex leading to problems, the process of self-discovery, the importance of critical thinking and the unconscious, the inequity in a hierarchical society, coercive persuasion as a method to oppress people, the traumas caused by suppressing too much the unconscious, the decadence of the nobility in the 18th Century, the meaning of paintings, the importance of education for children etc. Therefore people shouldn’t read Painter Of The Night just as a hot and gory story but as a story with many meanings, just like “Justine: the Misfortunes of Virtue” from Sades that is often reduced to sex.
In order to grasp better why this author wrote such a provocative theater play, we have to understand the historical context. This story was written during the German Empire (1871-1918) which is described as an authoritarian state (Obrigkeitsstaat). In this historical era, German society was influenced by strict values, like f. ex. blind obedience, willingness to make sacrifices, ruthlessness, nationalism, high esteem for the army but no critical thinking. That’s why critical ability was not trained rather it was the opposite. Critic was oppressed. At the same time, more and more schools were founded which sounds like a good thing. However, the true reason for increasing literacy was to turn boys into obedient soldiers in reality. [Now, you can understand why Hitler had it much easier later… these values existed before he came to power] This explains why physical punishment and the ruling by fear were common methods during this historical period. Children had to listen to their parents, their teachers and the authorities without question.
Now, the readers can sense the similarities between both stories. Both societies in “Spring awakening” and “Painter Of The Night” are very conservative. Filial piety and respect towards higher classes are requested and highly esteemed, besides there is a strict and conservative social hierarchy and no one has to question the social norms. The commoners are not allowed to complain, they have to accept the inequity. In the German Empire, nobility still existed in that period despite the constitution. There is no real supervision about the teacher’s methods and skills, they can do whatever they want as long as they are supporting the ruler and his politics. The king and nobility’s authority are not even criticized. This explains why in the German Empire teenagers have no freedom and are monitored all the time. Sex and sex education are taboos, yet the teenagers have to deal with the awakening of their sexual desires coming along with the puberty.
After describing the context, we can now start to introduce the story “Spring Awakening”. We have a 14 years old girl, Wendla Bergmann, who gets pregnant by coerced sex. Her tragedy is that she is not even aware of the pregnancy. Because her pregnancy could be seen as a stain for her family, it is disguised as a disease by the doctor, while the young woman is forced to get an abortion causing her death. Melchior Gabor, also a 14 years old teenager from the bourgeoisie, is the one responsible for her situation. Since he suddenly felt attracted by her, he slept with her, well aware that there is no deep love between them. He is just following his natural instincts. You have to imagine that Wendla Bergman couldn’t even call it a rape because she had no idea what was happening to her. Now, you are wondering how all this could happen.
Since Wendla has been taught to listen to her mother’s words, she believes everything what the mother says. The poor girl listens to her mother so well that at the end, it becomes her downfall. The mother refused to give her a lesson about sex education in many occasions. First, the teenager has a sister named Ina who has just given birth but during Ina’s pregnancy, Wendla was not allowed to meet Ina. Her mother announces her the birth of Ina’s son which surprises Wendla. Wendla’s parent explains the origin of the birth with the legend about the stork delivering the baby. However, she is very curios which explains why she is never really satisfied with her mother’s answers and keeps asking. Moreover, she even begs Melchior to beat her revealing her sado-masochist disposition.
Wendla is not so convinced by Mrs. Bergmann’s lies but the mother is determined not to tell her the truth. The innocent girl doesn’t give up until the mother confesses that children are born out of love after a marriage. So in the girl’s mind, love and marriage become the conditions for a pregnancy. Imagine her astonishment, when her mother reproaches her to endanger their family’s reputation at the end because she is now pregnant. In that moment, the daughter replies that this can’t be possible because she only loves her mother and she is not married. She is not stupid, just really naive. Now, you are wondering where the similarities between Wendla and the characters from Painter Of The Night are.
This is quite simple: Baek Na-Kyum has a lot in common with Wendla. Both embodies innocence and purity. Both become victims of deceptions and as a result both get raped due to the manipulation of a relative. Baek Na-Kyum would have never refused Yoon Seungho so strongly, if he had not been brainwashed by Jung In-Hun in the first place. The “rape” is the consequence of the false belief. The painter is attracted by the noble right from the start but he has to fight against his natural sexual desires since he has been taught that sex is dirty and vulgar. Sure, here it is about homosexuality, yet I am quite sure that Jung In-Hun is no advocate for sex education in general, especially when I suspect that he is a pedophile. Sex is a taboo based on etiquette and social manners in that historical period. Therefore painting erotic pictures about sodomy is like a crime in Jung In-Hun’s eyes. As you know, he had another reason to condemn these pictures. He never wanted the painter to become successful. Wendla and Baek Na-Kyum put so much trust in their “parent” that they fail to notice the deepness of their lies. Then we have the same expectations. Both parents don’t accept disobedience, neither critic nor question.
Wendla senses that she is not suffering from hypochromic anemia but she is not aware of her real condition. She still relies on her mother, just like Baek Na-Kyum who has already sensed that something was wrong and decided to lie in the chapter 38. Yet they still have a certain faith in their relative.
Both characters are abandoned and betrayed by their loved and admired relative. The mother asks for an abortion without telling her daughter. She hides it behind her tears and sweet words. Here, the beholder can witness a similar attitude of the teacher. Behind his sweet talk and smile, he has another intention. The low-born has to spy for him. He is here actually telling him to sell himself indirectly, yet he acts as if he knows nothing about Seungho’s sexual orientation and that Baek Na-Kyum could become his target. His ignorance protects him for feeling guilty and responsible. The mother never told her daughter who Mrs Schmidt was and what she was about to do. She even adds at the end that Mrs. Schmidt is just someone. That way, she can’t be blamed for her daughter’s death and the latter can never reproach her responsibility. In-Hun’s alleged ignorance leads to the rape, just like Mrs. Bergmann ignored deliberately the sex education leading to the rape.
When Wendla senses her death coming, the mother till the end lies to her daughter which shows Mrs. Bergmann’s real coldness. She is actually the one responsible for her future death because she is the one who asks for the illegal abortion out of shame. Moreover, even before the truth about her pregnancy is unveiled, the mother keeps saying that Wendla is just suffering from hypochromic anemia. However, unlike Baek Na-Kyum, Wendla doesn’t resent her mother so much, once she discovers the truth. She just complains: “Why didn’t you tell me everything before?”. Besides, she is left in the dark about her own fate: Mrs Schmidt coming for the abortion.
For Baek Na-Kyum, it is totally different because at the end, he accepts the abandonment and realizes the real betrayal. On the other hand he is still accepting the harsh words coming from his learned sir:
“You were born to be a prostitute”
That’s why he tries to call himself a prostitute in front of the noble but fails (chapter 42).
He has not learnt yet to criticize the teacher’s words because the latter is a learned sir, whereas he has no education. Furthermore the blind obedience in “Spring awakening” is also visible in Painter Of The night, since it is expected by the low noble. Through the rethorical question, Baek Na-Kyum is manipulated into dropping the paintings. The artist has to follow his “adoptive father”‘s values and restrictions. Just like in the German Empire, harsh punishments are a common method in order to create submissive pawns. By inducing fear and giving punishments, Baek Na-Kyum is little by little coerced to give up his own identity and personality. He has to follow the rules and social norms which makes him a perfect tool for deception and lies. He ends up as a drunk because he needs to fill that emptiness. Indirectly, the author is here showing issues concerning blind obedience and filial piety, just like Wedekind. The portray of adults is quite negative: they are superficial, manipulative and hypocrite, unwilling to admit their own failure or guilt.
Another parallel is the importance of the clothing. In the first scene, Wendla’s mother wants her to change her night gown as she has become more feminine and more seductive. She needs to dress more like a woman but the young girl refuses. Then we have Jung In-Hun who wonders why Baek Na-Kyum doesn’t have his headband. Just a simple question and yet it is quite important. Here, Jung In-Hun is reminding him to wear the headband as it is a sign for his social status.
So he is pointing out that he should wear clothes according to his social status. Notice, this servant is also wearing a headband. The parents are here making sure that they are dressed according to their social status and age. There is no freedom in both cases.
But unlike Wendla, the artist has a different fate. First, he doesn’t die, although we could say that the rejection from Jung In-Hun could be perceived as a death in the figurative sense. Jung In-Hun thought that the low-born had no value any longer hence he didn’t need to keep pretense. The second difference is that he has the great chance to meet someone who is about to become his “mentor”: Yoon Seungho. The latter has a different way to teach the painter. He makes the young man question the teacher’s intentions through a question. He wants him to become more critical, to develop critical abilities. Yoon Seungho is a supporter of the education for commoners, as the chapter 6 underlined it with the sarcastic remarks from the powerful noble. I have the impression that the poetry could become the link that brings Yoon Seungho and Baek Na-Kyum closer. As you already know, I have no doubt that the noble returned a different poem. As a result, I am expecting that Yoon Seungho becomes the low-born’s teacher. He truly becomes his “learned sir”.
The other difference is that unlike Wendla, Baek Na-Kyum has an idea about sex and sexuality because he was raised at the brothel, whereas Wendla belongs to the bourgeoisie, a higher class from the society and she is a woman. Besides, we have another contrast: Baek Na-Kyum blamed Yoon Seungho for the rape and hated him,
whereas Wendla shows no resent towards the young man due to her ignorance.
Yet their innocence and their fate as victims are the common denominators. They are manipulated by selfish, two-faced and narrow-minded parents who reject their own responsibility. Their methods of education might differ, Wendla was never beaten unlike some of her friends and Baek Na-Kyum, yet the deception was used by both relatives. For her own sake, she preferred to risk her daughter’s life than have her family’s reputation ruined. However, Jung In-Hun is worse than Mrs. Bergmann, since he doesn’t even love the young man and shows no conscience at all. He can’t even cry, he can only fake smiles.
As you can sense, I only compared two characters from the theater play and could outline many parallels. But this is not the end as I haven’t even examined the main character Melchior Gabor yet. This will be the topic for another analysis.
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If you have already read my former analyses, you know that our protagonist Yoon Seungho is associated to the window, because he spends so much time in a room looking at his courtyard through the window. (chapter 35). But what does the window symbolize?
1. The meaning of the window
In order to answer this question, let us take a look at the definition of the window:
It’s an opening in the wall or roof of a building or vehicle, fitted with glass in a frame to admit light or air and allow people to see out.
Since our story takes place in Joseon, there is no glass, only thin paper or an open frame, yet it doesn’t change the definition. It’s an opening… that admits air and light and allows people to see out. Striking is that the window is connected to fresh air and sun therefore we can say that through the view, people can definitely broaden their horizon as they are able to witness what it happening outside.
However, let us not forget that their view is limited. Yoon Seungho can only see what is happening in the courtyard, but not in the servants’ room or in the painter’s room. Therefore we come to the next conclusion, the window can represent a barrier, a hindrance. That’s the reason why f. ex. writer Emily Bronte used the window in that aspect in her novel Wuthering Heights.
The window can even symbolize the boundary between the inner world of a character (room) and the outside. Therefore the room could be seen as the personification of the protagonist embodying his inner thoughts and feelings trapped in his darkness. Hence he is seeking light and air through the window. Consequently, I interpret that Yoon Seungho sitting or standing in front of the window like the following. The room seems to be a prison, it is suffocating for Yoon Seungho, hence he looks out of the window in order to be able to breathe and survive. He is caught in his darkness, yet the window allows him to escape from his dungeon, from his past. His passivity reflects his resignation, he is already thinking that nothing exciting in his life will ever happen, until he met the painter. That’s why he said in the chapter 18:
From the moment he met the low-born, he started acting differently. First he kept touching the painter and then he even started leaving the room behind and came to the door. It is interesting that in chapter 7, Yoon Seungho even followed the younger painter, after the latter had heard about the arrival of his admired teacher. Notice how the lord stands in the courtyard and looks at the welcome of the low noble.
This picture reflects the social hierarchy. Yoon Seungho stands at the top, and the teacher is closer to him. However, if you pay attention to Jung In-Hun’s gesture, he is turning his body in order to face the powerful noble. It was as if he was pushing away the young artist. Now, you realize that such a single picture can contain so much symbolism. But now let’s return to our main topic, the meaning of the room and the window.
So the room with the window represented the situation of the powerful lord at the beginning (chapter 5) and it is still there at the end of season 1. (chapter 44). It looks like there wasn’t much progression, yet this time, the painter walks towards his mansion and remains by his side. This is important, because I realized that with the vanishing of the learned sir, Yoon Seungho chose to remain in the lord‘s bedchamber. What caught my attention is that the lord always went to the courtyard because of the admired sir. We have two chapters for this interpretation: chapter 7 and chapter 35 . What caught my attention is that when the lord visited the scholar for the first time, both were sitting in front of a door which looked like a window at the same time. (Chapter 7) This is not random at all, as from my perspective, it introduces the role played by Jung In-Hun in the main lead‘s life. He will be the one forcing the lord to move away from the window so that he can leave the bedchamber. Thus we had this scene: Yoon Seungho is observing the learned sir and his student from far away. (Chapter 19) This explicates too why the noble remained so passive in season 2 in the end. Baek Na-Kyum was the lord‘s love interest, hence his „place“ is the bedchamber. So how can the lord move away from the window and as such from the bedroom? Jung In-Hun is the trigger. And note that only in season 2, we discovered how the learned sir used walks through the countryside to console the painter. (Chapter 70) Finally, the main lead organized a hunt for the first time because of his honored guest. (Chapter 22) And if you recall the lord‘s behavior, you will notice that he left the city for the first time, when he wanted to meet the scholar. (Chapter 6) He encountered him in the woods. Under this new light, it reinforces my conviction that the learned sir‘s death will be the lord‘s motivation to become proactive and leave his past behind. Why? It is because of the painter‘s words. (Chapter 94) The painter still respects the scholar, but he already loves Yoon Seungho. He is not disloyal towards his former teacher despite falling in love with the protagonist. With the last incident, Yoon Seungho got aware how much the painter means to him, but at the same time, he realized the importance of the learned sir in Baek Na-Kyum‘s life. He needs to answer his question: (Chapter 102) And this question is strongly connected to the scholar, for the main lead was first sent to Jung In-Hun‘s home. ( 100) Don‘t forget that the main lead saw the room covered in blood, though the latter had already dried. To conclude, the main lead was encouraged to walk thanks to the scholar, and as such to leave his window! (Chapter 100)
Therefore it is not surprising why Yoon Seungho remained in front of the window at the end of season 1. He no longer needed to seek him out and bid him farewell. (Chapter 44) It was the painter’s role. This signified that he was still trapped by his past and trauma, something that he hadn’t revealed to anyone. Since Yoon Seungho is still inside the room smoking in front of the window, it reveals that the lord had not really let go of his past at all, he had not expressed himself in front of Baek Na-Kyum yet. If he reveals his inner feelings and thoughts, this means he will disclose his secret and unveil his vulnerability. This explains why there was no confession from the noble’s side for instance [there were other reasons why he hadn’t confessed anything too], why he was still not sharing his inner thoughts and emotions to his partner.
First, he has never opened up to anyone before. Trust is needed and the artist needs to win that trust, because so far, Baek Na-Kyum had always pushed the noble away. There was still a gap between Baek Na-Kyum and the lord, hence the former didn‘t go to his room, but to his own study. My prediction was that Baek Na-Kyum had to open up first so that the lord could learn from him. And it became a reality. The reason was that the seme was very inexperienced, for no one had ever confided to him. Moreover, he had long internalized that weaknesses must be hidden. Unconsciously, he had already claimed Baek Na-Kyum as his bride, nonetheless this indicated that there was still this distance, this invisible wall between them. We have to understand that Yoon Seungho had never learnt how to share pain and express emotions verbally to others. He had to hide his secret, his past and trauma. (Chapter 37)
The shaking hand with the fist embodies his repressed inner feelings and thoughts. He had learned to keep everything to himself. Now, you are probably thinking that all this is not entirely new because I already mentioned his passivity. And now, you can grasp the origins of Yoon Seungho‘s silence and inactivity. This stroll through the mountain corresponds to his true revival. (Chapter 102) This signifies that Yoon Seungho will act differently in season 4: he will be proactive. Like I mentioned in the essay „Scandal(s) in Jemulpo“, he will become the scholar’s disciple and follow his footsteps: ruthless, but also caring and gentle. The only difference is that his affection for the painter is genuine.
2. Baek Na-Kyum‘s symbol: the door
However, I needed to describe this again in order to contrast Yoon Seungho’s position with the painter’s situation. What caught my attention is that Baek Na-Kyum is connected to the door, unlike the main lead. We have so many scenes where the low-born is seen close to a door or stands on the doorstep. This is what I could gather so far (I still might have missed some):
Now, you realize the importance of the door. But what does it mean? Why is Baek Na-Kyum related to the door? First, the window and the door have two common denominators: the room and the limited view to the outside world. However, since a door connects the outside with the inside, it allows to move. The person can leave the room behind, the painter has more possibilities, while with the window the person inside must feel more trapped.
Since I already pointed out that the room embodies the lord’s inner world, we have to imagine that for Baek Na-Kyum it is the same. However, the room represents something else: his unconscious, his hidden true personality and desires and not his past and trauma, like Yoon Seungho. That’s the reason why the room is not a prison like in Yoon Seungho’s case but rather a secret. The painter is hiding his secret behind the door. And now, you can understand the true signification of the door for the artist. The door embodies the doorstep where Baek Na-Kyum has to admit his homosexuality. Now, if we look back at the different situations where the door was seen. Byeondock even drew many pictures of the door in the same chapter underlining the significance and the true meaning of the door.
Now, I’ll interpret different scenes with the door which caught my eye. Little by little I am adding more and more images with the door. And this is what I found so far. I examined the following scenes: 8, 9, 10, 16, 20, 29, 35, 41 and 44.
When we look at the chapter 8, we have this situation. The young man is about to enter the lord’s chamber standing in front of the door. He has been asked by the lord to go there so that he can paint another erotic picture.
Here, the artist is opening the door. It was as if he was entering a forbidden world, where sex and homosexuality are indulged, where people enjoy their sexuality to the fullest. By entering this room, Baek Na-Kyum is reminded of his own repressed and natural desires. Then in chapter 9,
he leaves the lord’s chamber in a hurry after witnessing a sex session. Right behind the door, he can’t help himself and starts masturbating. Hidden behind the door, he feels his sexual urge growing and starts right away with his masturbation. Since he is touching himself so close to the door separating his room from Yoon Seungho’s room, it outlines that he has trouble to control his repressed sexual desires. His unconscious is urging him to become sexually active again. On the other hand, he ensures that the lord doesn’t see his erection demonstrating that he is still denying his own sexual orientation and attraction. On the other hand, the lord heard him which led him to the following conclusions: Baek Na-Kyum is somehow attracted to him and he has some experience with men as he shows no hesitation to masturbate very quickly. So the door served as a protection, he wanted to keep his sexual desires hidden from the noble. Notice how horrible he feels after his ejaculation. He is burying his face as if he was avoiding reality and his own sexual desires. He still wants to deny these urges.
Then chapter 10, the pavilion could be perceived as the unconscious hidden behind the painter’s body. (Chapter 10) Since the pavilion is open aired, it looks like there is nothing there… it was as if the true sexual orientation of the low-born didn’t exist but since there is a roof with beams, we can conclude that Jung In-Hun’s attempt to eradicate his true sexuality has in reality failed. There are rest of it. In other words, the pavilion mirrors Baek Na-Kyum’s denial and brainwashing through Jung In-Hun. This also explicates why Jung In-Hun used here emotional and cognitive techniques as a warning here. He was coercing him to drop the painting.
Then in chapter 16,
Yoon Seungho catches the low-born, because he wants him to experience sex. He has noticed the reluctance hence he just masturbates the young man. Striking is that the door is opened at some point by a servant. This opening of the door by someone else embodies the fear of being discovered. Baek Na-Kyum is determined to never reveal his repressed sexual desires. Consequently he wants the door to stay closed. So if he is seen then, he fears that his sexual orientation will be discovered, yet he wants it to remain a secret. Now, you can understand the meaning of the door in chapter 37. It is still the same. Despite getting a blowjob, he still wants to hide his homosexuality to the outside. Hence he still gets scared and would like the noble to stop from exciting him. So for the first time, he is experiencing sex with someone.
Here, the door is wide open and this coincides with the commoner’s confession. The young man was drunk, yet he was hiding behind the door until it got opened by the lord. So Baek Na-Kyum’s unconscious wanted to reveal his repressed sexual desires (homosexuality) and his love to the outside world.
In chapter 29, the low noble is bringing him back to the mansion. Striking is that the door is completely open too. This picture illustrates the role played by Jung In-Hun in the painter’s homosexuality. He is the one who “forces” to become an official sodomite, therefore he can no longer hide his sexual preference behind a closed door. I believe that this is related to this incident. Note the opened door. The learned sir caught him by surprise. That’s how the learned sir was forced to repress and hide his homosexuality. This is no coincidence that in season 1, the scholar had the opposite attitude. By feigning ignorance, he actually encouraged the artist to become a sodomite. After their return to the mansion, the teacher showed leniency. He accepted that his student would paint erotic paintings, but he was well aware of their sexual encounter. (Chapter 30) The moment he arrives back and the lord brings him back to his chamber, the nature of their relationship is no mystery any longer, though painting is used as a justification. (Chapter 29) Striking is the thickness of the wall. This symbolizes a long way for Baek Na-Kyum to admit his sexual orientation. Just because people know, this doesn’t mean that he is acknowledging his homosexuality immediately.
In chapter 34/35, there are three different scenes where the door plays a huge part. I have to say that the last scene was the one that caught my attention in the first place and that’s how I was able to connect the door to Baek Na-Kyum.
The first drawing shows the lord opening the door for Baek Na-Kyum. This signifies that the noble has somehow given up on forcing the painter to admit his homosexuality and his attraction to the lord. That’s the reason why Yoon Seungho spent the entire night thinking over how to convince the low-born to come to his side and become his partner.
However, the sex marathon has not left the young man unaffected. He hides behind the closed door, while his body is shaking and his heart is beating loudly. He eve feels butterflies. For the first time, we see Baek Na-Kyum confronting himself with his repressed feelings… for the first time there is a connection between his thinking and his unconscious. He is somehow admitting that the lord’s presence has left an impact on him. However, with his body he is making sure that no one will ever find out this secret. He is still denying his homosexuality to the outside world. He wants to keep it a secret, yet he is no longer denying the existence of these feelings.
Then in the same chapter, we see Jung In-Hun abandoning the low-born and he even closes the door in front of him.
This single action has so many significations. First, it visualizes the rejection of the teacher. He cuts ties with him. It also shows that Jung In-Hun is well aware of what happened 10 days before. It reveals his selfishness as he shows no concern. In fact, it was as if the low noble was pushing him back. It was as if Baek Na-Kyum was pressured to become a homosexual even without admitting it. The teacher is forcing him to accept his situation but at the same time, he is denying the responsibility. Imagine the hypocrisy of the lord’s action. In reality, he is the one who pushes the painter to sleep with the lord, since he needs a spy. But by closing the door, he ensures that Baek Na-Kyum doesn’t need to admit his own homosexuality. This scene symbolizes the prostitution Jung In-Hun referred later. The teacher wants to use the artist’s sexual orientation for his own needs and simultaneously he doesn’t need to require this from the painter. As a conclusion, Jung In-Hun is now pushing the low-born to become a homosexual without revealing it to the outside world. At the same time, he acts as if he has no idea what is happening to the commoner. That way, Baek Na-Kyum can never reproach him to have used him as a prostitute or to be a hypocrite.
Then in chapter 41, we see a certain progression. The door has been opened by Yoon Seungho but Baek Na-Kyum doesn’t care any longer. Since he is begging the lord to be held, he is finally admitting his true desires. He likes being embraced by a man. This marks a pivotal moment in Baek Na-Kyum’s life. And this explains why the door is wide opened at the end.
Baek Na-Kyum is no longer hiding his true sexual orientation. He is facing the world without being embarrassed. He waited for Jung In-Hun, hoping that the young man would still accept him, but he experienced rejection. He was literally left behind. However, his acceptance of his own sexual orientation doesn’t necessarily mean that he loves Yoon Seungho. In the beginning of season 2, he viewed himself as a prostitute. (Chapter 45) He just accepted him as his sexual partner, hence he went to his room and not to the lord’s side in chapter 44. If we compare their respective situation. Yoon Seungho hadn’t progressed much compared to the painter at the end of season 1, because he needed to express his emotions and reveal his secrets and vulnerabilities to Baek Na-Kyum. It took him a long time to open up, as he had been coerced to view himself as a bird of misfortune. He didn’t dare to voice any wish out of fear that these wishes would get ruined. (Chapter 96) In his mind, he had no right to voice any desire, as they would be perceived as GREED! (Chapter 96)
But like I had written above, the low-born was in a better position right from the start. He had more freedom, while for Yoon Seungho the room is indeed a prison. Under this new approach, it becomes comprehensible how the main lead could leave the window and as such the darkness of his nightmare. Because of the painter, Yoon Seungho met Jung In-Hun, and the latter made him feel superior, but also jealous. That’s how his attention got diverted from the window making him discover the existence of the door! We could say that the painter as the butterfly led the poor protagonist to the door, and thanks to his mind, Yoon Seungho could release Baek Na-Kyum from his cage, as his mind was also trapped by social norms. And this sexual emancipation could only take place in the bedchamber. This explicates why the artist’s liberation was the first step for the lord’s liberation. But by opening the door for the painter, Yoon Seungho could free himself. Therefore it is not surprising that the painter‘s final confession took place in front of a closed door, (chapter 96) and Heena could hear his words. Hence at the end, the door got broken: (chapter 96) This represented the final emancipation of the artist. He no longer cared, if he was seen. He was so moved that he didn‘t pay to his surroundings. (Chapter 96), while it was not the case for the noble. The latter knew about the artist‘s shyness. This truly shows that Heena was responsible for the sexual oppression of her brother. The painter was no longer hiding his affection for the main lead, when he decided to wait for his master‘s return in the bedchamber. (Chapter 98) Observe that the artist was going there on his own will, and he was sharing his bed with his husband.
3. Heena and the opened door
How did the scholar discover that Baek Na-Kyum was painting erotic paintings of sodomy? (Chapter 1) This memory was from the learned sir. Why was he approaching the painter during the day? Secondly, note that he only scolded the artist in his house! (Chapter 34) So he had discovered a secret, he imagined that the painter had assisted to an immoral love session. (chapter 6) In my opinion, the kisaeng was responsible for this incident. We have a clue for this interpretation: (Chapter 94) The noona is the one standing in front of the opened door with her donsaeng. Here, the artist was getting embarrassed and humiliated. That‘s how little by little, the artist associated the closed door to shame and safety. This is not surprising that the kisaeng is also standing behind the closed door, when she hears her brother making love to the main lead. (Chapter 96) In addition, she is constantly seen in connection with an opened door, but this opened door is linked to anxieties, pain, shame and guilt: (chapter 68) (chapter 66) (chapter 88) I have the impression that she was acting out of jealousy, and she had intended to tarnish her brother‘s reputation.
And this leads to my final words. In my first version, I had expressed the following thoughts:
„Does it mean that the lord needs to leave the mansion behind in order to liberate himself from his suffering? If so, then we have two possibilities. Either he gives up his title and everything for the painter or he decides to move to the capital and helps the artist to develop his career and even starts meddling in politics.“
And look at the progression of the story. Yoon Seungho did leave the mansion behind and went to the mountain with the painter in his arms. (Chapter 102) This symbolized the final emancipation of Yoon Seungho. He could finally move on from his past, and as such leave the darkness of his mental prison. He no longer needs a window to view life. This scene announced that he was starting living again. Thus I am expecting to see Yoon Seungho becoming more proactive and funny in season 4. He will show his intelligence and strength in order to defeat his enemies because so far, he never revealed his qualities to others, only to the scholar. His past had left him somehow paralyzed, hence he has laid a low profile. In his past, he believed that his prison was his protection, for he could observe and remain quite wealthy and powerful. For me, Baek Na-Kyum is in reality his strength, the reason why he will be able to leave his cage and shows his true colors and skills.
4. The true form of Jung In-Hun
But if the window symbolizes Yoon Seungho and Baek Na-Kyum the door, what is representing the teacher? In my opinion the open air. He is mostly seen outside.
(chapter 7) (chapter 10)(chapter 19) (chapter 29) (Chapter 22) (chapter 35) He often strolls through the courtyard. Therefore I would say that the air embodies him so perfectly. He is seen with his nose in the air
which shows his arrogance. Simultaneously, he gives himself airs. How can he be touched by this low-born? The picture shows both aspects. Then in the chapter 6, he is just hot air (this expression means empty talk in order to impress) , when he says that he was the one who taught how to read to the painter. Here, he tries to present himself as a good teacher to Yoon Seungho. Furthermore, he is overestimating his own skills and he is definitely daydreaming which is connected to the expression “castles in the air”. His aspirations are boundless, he is aiming at the highest position without being competent or even trying to improve himself. He also attempts to air dirty laundry, when he is hunting with Yoon Seungho. He wants to force the lord to admit his lie so that he can criticize him. But here he fails. As you can observe, many expressions with air reflect his personality. However, there is one scene that contrasts to this observation, that’s when he is in his library in the chapter 40. We actually see him at the library in two occasions:
chapter 7 and 40. However only the scene in the chapter 40 is memorable. Therefore I would say that he is linked to two spaces: open air and closed room like the library. It seems strange that Jung In-Hun is linked to a world with no boundary and the opposite, a closed room. Actually, it is quite simple. The outside signifies that he is actually empty and superficial behind his smile. He is so fake hence he has no real personality. Besides, since there is no limit, then it can also signify that he has no conscience as he knows no boundary. Furthermore, it also illustrates that he has no past and no trauma too. Finally, it also indicates that he will never change, there will be no transformation and as such no progression. Air remains air. Yet he only shows his true thoughts in a closed door in the chapter 40. His words there are suffocating the poor boy, that’s the reason why Baek Na-Kyum is left speechless. (Chapter 40) He can’t breathe properly. Since there is no view and no door to the outside visible in the drawing, we have to imagine this reflects his narrow-mindedness. He is surrounded by books (see the pictures from the chapter 7) therefore he lacks real experience and knowledge. He is literally buried behind his books, therefore his knowledge is superficial. (Chapter 27) Even in his bedroom there are books so his own bedchamber gives the readers a suffocating feeling. Since there is no window visible in his room and the library, there is no fresh air in the closed room which explains why it is asphyxiating. Usually, we say in a closed room that it smells musty. He only knows the world through his books and the moral standards. He is not even opened to the outside, only his words and thoughts count. Everything else has no value hence there is no life next to him. People living by his side will end up suffocated as he doesn’t allow them to breathe. He is stubborn and he will never change, a fake, empty and narrow-minded man with no conscience. Because of this connection, I realized that Jung In-Hun had no future in Hanyang. He would end up buried, and this became a reality. Because the moment he left for the capital, he ended up dead. And now, if you think carefully, you will recognize that the learned sir is associated to nature! Thus he was seen in the woods (chapter 6, 22) or in the countryside admiring the moon. (Chapter 70) Air means also breathing! Hence he represents the fresh air entering Yoon Seungho‘s bedroom, hence we had such a scene: (chapter 35) The lord witnessed the intimate interaction between the learned sir and the artist, thus he was incited to leave the bedroom. Strangely, we could say that he was the initiator for the lord‘s liberation. No wonder, why Kim wished to get rid of the learned sir in the end, and just viewed the artist as less annoying and evil!
So the moment he left the domain, the admired sir was confronted by reality. His stay in the mansion had made him dream (Chapter 18) so that he ended up letting his guard down. He was not so competent and intelligent like Yoon Seungho, he relied more on the stupidity on others. He could deceive commoners, but not spies. In my first version, I had envisioned that the learned sir had many tricks up his sleeves so he would survive, but I had not realized that he had met a fake servant (chapter 37) definitely a noble who could see through him. For me, it was the pedophile himself. I had predicted that he would disappear into thin air, and it became a reality, especially if my theory about his assassination is correct. We could see the transformation of the scholar into a ghost, (chapter 50) who would come to haunt the couple because of his resent. (Chapter 98) As the air, he became a spirit! And note that the lord was encouraged to stroll too!
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Yes, I chose this title because of the Russian short novel written by Leo Tolstoy. In this story, the rich land owner Vasili Andreyevich Brekhunov died by saving the servant’s life Nikita, because he realized that the low-born’s life was as worthy as any other man. Furthermore, he also got aware of his own selfishness, for he was responsible for their predicament. They were caught in a snow storm and the noble initially abandoned the peasant. However, at the end, the lord changed his mind and revealed another side from himself. This outlines that status is very superficial and the readers witness the master’s conversion leading a huge change in his behavior and thoughts towards commoners and low-born.
In the following analysis, we will examine the lord- low-born relationship between the nobles Yoon Seungho and Jung In-Hun and the commoner Baek Na-Kyum, when the latter becomes sick. All this was triggered because one of my followers asked me this: Why didn’t Seungho return home for days? From my point of view, the conversation between the nobles and Yoon Seungho, triggered by Min (chapter 33), forced the lord to realize that the artist was indeed a precious treasure, and he was not willing to share him. (chapter 33) At the same time, due to Black Heart’s words, the noble was reminded of the painter’s health conditions. Although the lord was talking about the artist, as though the latter was just an object, the reminder forced him to recall that Baek Na-Kyum was a human who could die. That’s why he returned in the end. His abandonment reflected his cowardice, he didn’t desire to be confronted with the consequences of his bad behavior. Consequently, just like in the Russian novel, the main lead was reminded that the low-born was just a human. As you can see, both characters had a similar disposition and also a change of heart.
Striking is that the butler tried to cover up his master’s cowardice and abandonment. He diverted Baek Na-Kyum’s attention by showing his concern for his master.
But before this, the servant Kim mentioned that the lord’s room was the best, as it was the warmest. (chapter 34) Kim’s remark was in fact insinuating that the lord had been very generous and caring for him. He gave the impression to the low-born that the noble was treating him like a noble, as the latter had sacrificed his bed for his recovery. However, this was not true, as the lord had brought the artist to the study before the doctor’s arrival. (chapter 33) At the same time, the butler was not entirely lying either. The lord had indeed shown generosity and care, since he had called for the physician. Yet, once he had heard about the doctor’s precription, the aristocrat had ran away from his responsibilities (chapter 33) and left everything in Kim’s hands. Remember my statement: Kim is always telling half-truths. Kim was in reality the one who brought him to the noble’s bed. (chapter 33) He needed to portray his master in a much more positive light in order to obtain the painter’s cooperation. The valet hoped that the artist would follow his order (chapter 34) and become the lord’s sex toy:
So in my opinion, while Yoon Seungho had indeed showed worries and benevolence towards the painter, he was relying on his right-hand, therefore he never came to verify if Baek Na-Kyum was recovering properly. The irony is that although the valet treated the painter as a honorable guest (bringing him to the lord’s chamber and taking care of him as if he was his master), in truth he was just viewing the low-born as an object and tool. was truly making sure that Baek Na-Kyum would get the best treatment, but the domestic used the opportunity to praise his master indirectly.
And now you understand why Yoon Seungho didn’t return to the mansion. First, he felt guilty, as he knew why the young man got so sick. His remorse were definitely bigger, as the artist could lose his life. He even heard the critic from the doctor.
His guilty conscience is actually visualized in the chapter 33. He has no erected phallus and looks exhausted. (chapter 33) While he was at the sex orgy, he remembered the exhausted young face of the painter, while they were talking about him.
The black coloring about the head is a sign for flashback and memory. We saw in another chapter that Byeonduck uses the color black to announce that this is a flashback. However, I feel that Yoon Seungho avoided his mansion because he was confused too. He wanted to find out if his “obsession” for the painter was related to sex. We shouldn’t forget that in the past, the lord used to go to such parties very often which is revealed during the chapter 33.
It becomes clear that the moment he slept with Baek Na-Kyum, he dropped off his visits there. Yet after the sex marathon, he started visiting the sex parties again. the relapse was a sign of his torment. But there are other explanations as well. He thought that going back to the sex parties could help him to lower his strong libido for the uke. He wasn’t sure if his urge for Baek Na-Kyum was caused by the lack of sex, as he had stopped going to these sex orgies or if it was related to something else, to the person itself. Furthermore, I believe that by going back to the sex orgies, he experienced that he was no longer interested in sex, but he was looking for something else. He wanted to be with the artist. And now, you comprehend the second relapse in chapter 51: The lord was suffering, but unlike in the past he couldn’t keep his distance from his lover. He needed to sense his presence. He was no longer his sex partner, but he wasn’t treated like an object or a servant. During these two separations, Yoon Seungho was full of worries for Baek Na-Kyum which he was trying to forget, yet he couldn’t. At the same time, he was reflecting on his past actions:
– Why did he force the man to sleep with him for so long and overlook his current state? What drove him to drop off his visits to the sex parties, when he used to go there very often?
I perceive the lord as someone who does think deeply, hence he wouldn’t be spending so much time in front of his window in general. From my point of view, Yoon Seungho had to introspect himself and was making sure despite his sense of guilt that his “obsession” or love for the painter was not related to his strong stamina but to his desire to share his thoughts with him. He wanted to have a true companion. Let us not forget that Yoon Seungho has never experienced love before and has never received love from his father. So he had no role model, hence he was confused and couldn’t recognize the true cause for his behavior. He didn’t know how to show love. So far, the world he grew up was full of treacherous and vain hypocrites where there is no love. Let us not forget that even Jihwa doesn’t reveal his love for him. Furthermore, his past made him experience sex without pleasure and even without love. However, the moment he met the painter, he could finally connect his sexual orientation with ecstasy. In the first season, without the painter he was experiencing if his “obsession” with the painter was related to sex or to something else. Like I had truly recognized, the noble had not realized the existence of his feelings for the commoner. I believe that he couldn’t name his affection as love due to his lack of knowledge. He was confusing his mind with his heart. There is no denial that he was already in love with Baek Na-Kyum, as the man affected him so much right from the start. The moment they met, he acted differently. Besides, love is never a constant feeling. It changes all the time. Moreover, there are different kind of love. He was attracted by the painter due to his paintings, then due to his face and gaze… little by little he fell for him. However, the lord never realized it, unlike his servant Kim. However, in my opinion, the butler only judged it as an obsession and not as love. He imagined that his master had fallen too deeply into sodomy (chapter 18) In my eyes, the butler’s cowardice is connected to the social norms. He had deeply internalized the social values from Joseon, hence he represents a reinforcement of authorities. As you can see, there are many explanations for his behavior: guilty conscience, out of concern, self-introspection… On the other hand, he is only partially running away from his responsibility, as he had asked the servant Kim to take care of the artist. This is why this “abandonment” stands in opposition to the scholar’s. The latter betrayed during the rape, as he didn’t intervene and acted as if nothing was happening. And the next day, he brought him back to the mansion and abandoned him by letting Yoon Seungho drag him to the bedchamber. At no moment, he tried to stop his sponsor. That’s why he remains invisible in chapter 32.
But if we look back at the first picture at the beginning, you’ll notice that Kim’s words are reflecting something else. (chapter 33) He was acting as a mediator between the master and the low-born which looks like a good thing. In reality, he was meddling in their relationship. Who was he to intervene? That’s why he acted like a father. With his words, the butler was implying that his lord had been affected by his illness, hence he remained away. However, I believe that in the valet’s mind, there existed a different explanation. For Kim, his master was just a coward. That’s why he said this comment in front of the physician: (chapter 33) He anticipated that his master was avoiding to face the consequences of his selfish behavior. For me, Kim doesn’t truly love his master. He views the Yoons as terrible, but he will never confront them. But for his own safety, he needed to deceive the painter. Let’s not forget that Kim had played a role in his escape and the low-born could reveal it to his master. That’s why he needed to fake his care and concern for the painter so that the artist wouldn’t mention the past. Thus he begged the young man not to wander around as a sign of care and gentleness.
Simultaneously, Kim needed to manipulate the painter so that the latter would realized that he had won Yoon Seungho’s trust. He desired to obtain his obedience. What appears as mediation was in reality manipulation, which would create misunderstandings. He hoped that Baek Na-Kyum wouldn’t go to the teacher’s side. He was well aware of his master’s jealousy. In other words, this scene revealed many important points:
– The lord might have been away but he thought about him and made sure that he would get the best treatment
– Yoon Seungho’s behavior has drastically changed, he hasn’t returned home hence there is something upsetting the lord
The loyal assistant is acting like the lord’s lawyer. And here, in the chapter 34, we can see the contrast with Jung In-Hun’s attitude. Baek Na-Kyum asked Kim about the teacher. Was he worried about him? Has he asked after him? Kim denied all of his questions which upset the young man.
That’s the reason why he cried in the bed, covering his face. His gesture revealed his pain, but it also indicated that he didn’t want to be confronted by reality. Kim showed him that his admired sir had abandoned him, but the artist was in denial. He only explained it as a lack of concern. He was veiling his face in front of the truth. On the other hand, this scene was important for another reason. It truly exposed the learned sir’s stupidity and blindness. Without the artist by his side, Jung In-Hun meant nothing to the protagonist. Note the contrast between the butler and the scholar’s attitude. The former had understood the artist’s importance, though he didn’t like it, while the learned sir seemed to be in denial. The low noble didn’t even imagine that Baek Na-Kyum could lose his life. Then if you compare both aristocrats, you’ll detect the huge difference. Although both nobles were away from him, one kept his distance out of concern and guilt, the other felt nothing. The words Kim said did affect the painter, he could sense that the powerful noble had been caring and kind. Kim’s words made sure that the low-born wouldn’t push away his master like in the past, and wouldn’t blame him for his sickness. At the same time, the butler was trying to “tame” Baek Na-Kyum.
And Yoon Seungho’s humbleness and selflessness was revealed with the kiss. (chapter 32) However, the valet Kim was not present, hence when he lied to Baek Na-Kyum, he had no idea that in reality his words were containing more truth than lies in reality. That’s why I chose the kiss as illustration for the analysis. The roles were switched. The master acted as a servant, and the low-born was now the lord. The male lead was acting like Vasili Andreyevich Brekhunov from the Russian novel. Yoon Seungho was even willing to give water to the exhausted man. This situation was repeated in chapter 76: (chapter 76). The lord made sure that the painter would feel better with the water. But let’s return our attention to chapter 33. In the bedchamber, the main lead was to blame for Baek Na-Kyum sickness, as he hadn’t paid attention to the artist’s condition. He had acted selfishly, exactly like the protagonist from Master and man. Both realized their huge mistakes, came to regret and took some responsibility, although the chronology in the Russian story diverges. But this shows that both aristocrats came to realize that commoners were humans and no possessions.
This is not surprising that In-Hun’s indifference and even selfishness hurt the young man more at the end. It was really visible in the next chapter. The young man had to hear that what Yoon Seungho did was not normal (chapter 35) and his preparations for the exam were more important than the painter’s life. (chapter 35) For the first time, Baek Na-Kyum could sense that Jung In-Hun was selfish and not kind. Moreover, he even reminded him that as a low-born the noble shouldn’t spend so much money for him. Indirectly, Jung In-Hun was telling him that if he had been Yoon Seungho, he would have done the opposite: not giving him the best room, not sending for the physician and not spending so much money for the medicine. In that chapter, Baek Na-Kyum could finally see glimpses of Jung In-Hun’s true personality. Therefore I think that the servant’s words did influence the young man, he didn’t blame and resent the noble for his condition. He saw the caring gestures, although he was absent… whereas Jung In-Hun was absent due to his own interest. (chapter 35) Here, the low-born’s head is down which indicates a certain resignation and pain. While the one did change his behavior and showed a new side to the young painter, the other remained indifferent. The caress on the cheek could no longer mask the learned sir’s lack of concern and selfishness. (chapter 35) No wonder that after his departure, the artist was disappointed and heartbroken.
To sum up, one aristocrat felt remorse and guilt, hence he tried to redeem himself by taking care of the artist to his own detriment, he even left the mansion for days, the other acted like usually. Here, we can see some similarities between Yoon Seungho and Vasili Andreyevich Brekhunov. Both are able to feel empathy. Baek Na-Kyum started seeing the powerful master’s caring side. Due to Kim’s words, he thought that the lord even sacrificed his own comfort and health for the young man… just like the Russian land owner sacrificed his life for Nikita, the peasant. The chapters 34 and 35 are important, because they marked a turning point in Baek Na-Kyum’s life. The perfect image that Jung In-Hun had been able to create was starting showing cracks. Little by little, the painter could sense that his relationship with the teacher was defined by his status, while Yoon Seungho’s behavior made him realize that he was not treating him like a low-born, but like a human. This explains why later Baek Na-Kyum lied to the teacher for the first time. The lord had showed him his vulnerable side and had even let him stay by his side, when the brother visited him. The artist felt the learned sir’s lack of empathy and concern for him and his selfishness. In his eyes, he was just a low-born, and Baek Na-Kyum could already sense it. Therefore he lied.
But let us not forget that he still hoped that the servant Kim had not told the truth, hence he went to the teacher in order to get confirmation. Yoon Seungho’s conversion was also visible, because after his return, he spent the whole night thinking how he could improve his relationship with the artist. And notice that from the chapter 36 on, he started lowering himself in front of the painter literally and figuratively. The blow-job in this chapter
contrasted so much to the blow-job in the chapter 28.
Their places had been switched: the low-born had become the master. First, the noble acted like a master with the soft punishment (chapter 36), until he saw the painter’s erection. He was willing to give up his position as master. That’s why he prioritizes the painter’s pleasure all the time. (chapter 36) So their relationship master-servant stopped at this moment, hence he lets him stay by his side, when the brother Seung-Won is in his chamber.(chapter 37) Notice that his position had changed. He was sitting by the lord’s side. He even asked the artist to sleep by his side and let him stay in his bed without waking him up the next morning. As you can observe, the characters’ position illustrated their actual position in their relationship. When Baek Na-Kyum woke up the next morning, he was alone in the bedchamber. The lord preferred to leave his bed and eat elsewhere. In other words, Kim’s words from chapter 33 became a reality. He let him rest in his bed. Yoon Seungho showed so much consideration that in the chapter 39, he even went to the kitchen in order to fetch the low-born. (chapter 38) He didn’t even send his loyal assistant. He had become the “servant” himself. In other words, we witnessed the lord’s slow conversion during the chapter 36 and the small changes from that moment. The nature of their relationship had changed, hence he claimed Baek Na-Kyum as his bride unconsciously. (chapter 40) So both characters, Yoon Seungho and Vasili Andreyevich Brekhunov transformed into a different person, more selfless and caring. They were willing to sacrifice things for them: status and pride. On the other hand, the nature of Baek Na-Kyum’s relationship with the teacher changed for the worse: from a teacher to a student, it became a lord-servant relationship, and the painter sensed the change of their relationship. But let us not forget: Jung In-Hun never considered the young man as a student, for him he had always been a low-born. It is just that he was so good to deceive the commoner.
And these observations in the first season were confirmed in the second season. The only difference is that this switch of social position from chapter 33 on was more momentary. The lord still viewed himself as a noble, he never realized his transformation. Yet in chapter 71, the noble chose to confirm the change of status: (chapter 71) Baek NA-Kyum was no longer a low-born, but a noble, while the main lead was his “servant”. This explicates why the noble was no longer asking for him in the evening (chapter 74) and visited him secretly during the night. But this switch of position didn’t remain a secret, the moment the lord embraced his panicked lover. (chapter 76) At the end of the second season, the lord’s true personality is more and more unveiled: he has a kind and generous heart, and he is able to reflect on his wrongdoings, which contrasts to Jung In-Hun. And now, you can comprehend why right from the start, I was fascinated by the infamous sodomite. The first season let us see glimpses of his warmth and selflessness. This means, the noble’s courage and strength will shine more and more.
As a conclusion, Yoon Seungho is a figure that resembles the noble Valmont from the “Dangerous Liaisons” and the land owner Vasili Andreyevich Brekhunov from “Master and man”, a man full of redemption despite his sins. As you can see, from a simple question “Why didn’t he return to the mansion?”, it became an analysis about master and servant and the transformation of Yoon Seungho.
And here again, I could use a classic story for an inspiration and comparison which shows how well written this manhwa is.
Feel free to comment. If you have any suggestion for topics or manhwas, feel free to ask. If you enjoyed reading it, retweet it or push the button like. My instagram-tumblr-twitter account is: @bebebisous33. Thanks for reading and for the support, particularly, I would like to thank all the new followers and people recommending my blog.
Now, you are wondering how this manhwa can be connected to these English novels written by Jane Austen in the 19th Century. The reason is simple: the titles contain aspects that play a huge part in the manhwa and therefore persuasion, pride and prejudice will be in the center of this analysis. I am using the titles just like Jane Austen did.
Actually, my focus will be on Jung In-Hun and his special relationship with Baek Na-Kyum, where persuasion, pride and prejudice affect their relationship. However, if the title had been too obvious, I am not sure if people would have been inclined to read another analysis about this rather quiet character. Yet, when in the past I used to compare him to animals, my judgement was still too nice. Here, you’ll discover his true personality. Instead of explaining right away about the new discovery and knowledge, I will show you how I came to these terrible conclusions.
After writing my analysis about the mirror and its functions, one reader commented that in the chapter 31 you could sense that the mirror combined with the eyes was somehow used as a tool for hypnosis. [That’s why it is very important that people leave comments, through exchange I can even get new insights too.]
Hypnosis is a trance-like mental state in which people experience increased attention, concentration and suggestibility. This method can be used to treat people suffering from traumas so that the unconscious can reveal itself and free the repressed natural feelings and thoughts so that through suggestions, the patient can be influenced to overcome his fears and trauma.
Now, let me contextualize the sequence of the drawings again. Seungho is forcing the painter to look into the mirror and see his own reactions while having sex with the lord. He wants him to acknowledge his own sexual orientation and his attraction for the master hence he holds Baek Na-Kyum’s face in front of the mirror. And then the author focused on the eyes. The first image above shows the reflection of Baek Na-Kyum’s eyes in the mirror, since the thumb is on the right just like in the 4th picture. So here the beholder observes through the mirror the painter’s gaze and here we feel something has been triggered in his mind therefore the image from his daydream resurfaces (second image, it appeared in the episode 2). In this case, the unconscious is starting to emerge from this repression. The third drawing is focused on the lord’s gaze but here we have to imagine that this is viewed from the painter’s perspective. The lord’s gaze has caught his attention and as such, the artist seems to be put into a second state, into hypnosis. Thanks to the reader’s observation with the hypnosis, something really important caught my eyes: the gaze. Yoon Seungho’s gaze is so captivating for the uke that his eyes can’t leave his gaze…. that’s how the hypnosis started so that after that sex marathon, Baek Na-Kyum was so affected and started feeling butterflies in his belly. Then I was suddenly reminded that in the chapter 2, Baek Na-Kyum is remembering his vow and now pay attention to this image:
Striking is that the eyes are missing. There is no gaze, only the mouth moving has been engraved in the painter’s mind which means that the teacher’s voice and words must have played a huge importance. Yet, why couldn’t the artist remember Jung In-Hun’s face? I came to realize that it must have been related to the physical abuse as we see him getting beaten with his head down. So from his position, he could never catch the teacher’s eyes but he could only hear his voice. So this single scene contains so much info in reality. While it looks like a normal punishment, the spectator is actually witnessing the brainwashing called by psychologists “coercive persuasion”. And now, you understand why I chose “persuasion” as part of the title. Since I am no expert in psychology, I had to do some research about this topic. There are 4 different methods to use coercive persuasion: Environmental, emotional and cognitive techniques. The last one (4th) induces dissociative states but it is not relevant for our case as it is far too modern.
From this list, we can see a lot of common points with Baek Na-Kyum’s situation. Although he was raised in a gisaeng house and seems to have been treated quite well, he is introduced as a drunk and lonely person.
In the second season, we discover why he cut ties with his family (the head gisaeng). The latter abandoned him and entrusted him to the scholar. She thought, she was doing him a favor and imagined that with the teacher’s support, his career could progress. Because of her abandonment, the painter relied even more on the teacher. Exposed to isolation, the teacher could start influencing him about his views: sex and sodomy are filthy and vulgar. As time passed on, he relied more and more on the teacher so that the moment the vow was made, Jung In-Hun somehow abandoned him. Therefore the painter started drinking alcohol in order to survive his existential dependence on the teacher. Then we witness in the chapter 22 how Baek Na-Kyum has some issues to follow the hunters. He is out of breath and he also falls easily. His weak constitution is no coincidence as we have to remember that he is actually a young man.
This also explains why he got sick after that sex marathon. The psycho-physical weakness of the low-born is the consequence of the coercive persuasion. But here is the next question: did the teacher just use environmental techniques to get his way?
Now, it is time to focus on the second method of coercive persuasion, the emotional techniques. Like before, I am listing its features: Emotional activation of pleasure, then emotional activation of fear, guilt and anxiety. It means that the person uses rewards and punishments so that emotional responses of fear are established. Due to guilt and anxiety, the person becomes dependent and submissive.
As you can observe, Jung In-Hun did use emotional techniques too. The poem and the smiles were his rewards, while the beating was his punishment. While abusing him, he kept explaining that these pictures were abnormal and filthy. In other words, Jung In-Hun has been manipulating Baek Na-Kyum’s emotions by making him feel guilty and dirty. And I believe that it is no coincidence that Baek Na-Kyum was always paralyzed, when he was hugged by Yoon Seungho from behindand why Jung In-Hun always touched the commoner in the front (chapter 24 or chapter 29). If you pay attention to the artist’s behavior, he never showed his back to the teacher, only walked behind or by his side because deep down, his body remembered that he was beaten on his calves, hence unconsciously he protected his back.
Finally, we come to the last techniques of brainwashing, the cognitive methods. Interesting is that this type of coercive persuasion techniques are mediated by previous techniques. A subject who is physically weakened and feeling guilty is perfect for cognitive persuasion: Critical thinking denigration, Lies and deception, identification with the group or with the authority (this means that the person loses his own personality and habit), control of attention and control over language.
Now, you can sense that in reality, Jung In-Hun’s brainwashing consisted of the last techniques: the cognitive techniques, since he first applied environmental and emotional techniques too. We have one scene, where it is clear that Baek Na-Kyum is not allowed to have his own opinion and must think like his “mentor” (critical thinking denigration).
That’s why he is not able to perceive the lies and deception in the teacher. He has been so manipulated by him that he falls for his lies every time and the teacher knows that. The chapter 10 reveals the coercive persuasion at his best. We have the critical thinking denigration, then the teacher makes him feel guilty by reminding what his paintings and sodomy are (vulgar and dirty)
Pay attention to Baek Na-Kyum’s reaction. He is put under pressure, totally stressed hence he is sweating. Finally, Baek Na-Kyum is coerced to abandon painting (identification to the group or authority). If he wants to be acknowledged and accepted by Jung In-Hun, he needs to stop working as a painter.
We can also observe the control of attention in this scene, when he touches the artist’s chin, he makes sure that his words are heard. Simultaneously, the spectator witnesses the control of language. The result is visible in another scene. The expression “consumed by lust” is something that Jung In-Hun uses as well. Here, the young man is just speaking like a parrot in reality.
And we still have people thinking that Yoon Seungho is far worse than the teacher. Since we have exposed his methods how he manipulated and brainwashed the young man, we need to go back to this picture: So Jung In-Hun’s gaze is not remembered. And this is not the only time, when we see the face of the man without eyes.
If you pay attention to the images from the chapter 20 and 21, you’ll notice the similarities. The eyes are not visible, only the chin and the mouth are clear. Nonetheless, in his drunkenness, Baek Na-Kyum acted as if he was seeing the man, but he was not. So why did he act like that? Alcohol can not be the only explication because he couldn’t remember the teacher’s eyes as well, when he was awake and normal (chapter 2). In my opinion, it is related to the coercive persuasion, it is a side effect. This shows how despicable this man is.
Sure, during that fateful night, Baek Na-Kyum wished that the man would be Jung In-Hun that’s why he was calling for his name. Now, we have to question if his intoxication liberated his unconscious, his repressed sexual desires. From my point of view, it is a mixture of both. Yes, he is longing for the warmth of a man but due to the brainwashing, In-Hun became the loved one. The teacher was even able to establish a relationship, where he could maintain his clean image without any physical touch. That’s why his love remains so pure. In-Hun made sure that Baek Na-Kyum would never get close to him but at the same time would long for him. Since the latter had indoctrinated him that homosexuality is vulgar and dirty, the poor man’s unconscious fused his repressed sexual desires with the image of In-Hun, but only his voice and mouth were visible. In other words, what we see is the Stockholm Syndrome. The painter has adopted the point of view of his abuser.
His so pure love for the scholar is a mechanism to cope with the huge trauma inflicted on him. That’s why his love declaration is so focused on the spiritual aspect: However, the coercive persuasion could never be effective on the artist’s unconscious. This explicates why the painter’s deeply repressed desires keep wishing to have sex with Yoon Seungho. Even awake, he imagines the lord getting closer to him, illustrating his desire that he would like the lord to feel attracted by him. (chapter 15)
This is the reason why Baek Na-Kyum worshiped the poem so much. He could remember the low noble’s voice which reinforced his dependency on the man. And now imagine the reaction of Baek Na-Kyum when he heard the critic from Yoon Seungho. Since he had been brainwashed, he could only react with such an insolence. I wouldn’t say that he was behaving like a freak but I am quite sure that the coercive persuasion explains his rather violent behavior. He yelled and tried to take the poem away from the lord.
At the same time, let us not forget that Yoon criticized the teacher for his poor skills in the chapter 22. You can understand now why Jung In-Hun was so infuriated. He had been able to trick the painter, to have such an admirer and felt that his methods were working well, until someone reminded him what he had actually done in reality: plagiarized a poem.
Now, we have to wonder why the teacher was so adamant to brainwash the young man, since he was just a commoner. My opinion is quite simple: he was terribly jealous of Baek Na-Kyum who, as a low-born, was able to publish many erotic books under a pseudonym. Jung In-Hun’s pride couldn’t take it that someone he considered far below from him was able to raise his financial situation and even get some recognition from the nobles who bought his books. His prejudice and pride were the cause for this coercive manipulation. But this is far from being finished. Why would he spend so much energy on such a single person?
From my perspective, Jung In-Hun is mentally sick. He is suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder. Here I have just listed all the characteristics for this mental illness:
A grandiose sense of self-importance
Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
Belief that one is special and can only be understood by or associate with special people or institutions
A need for excessive admiration
A sense of entitlement (to special treatment)
Exploitation of others
A lack of empathy
Envy of others or the belief that one is the object of envy
Arrogant, haughty behavior or attitudes
Resent in case of a critic (this was taken from psychology today website and another French website)
Now, if you compare the list with Jung In-Hun’s behavior and words, you’ll notice that they have so much in common. He feels so superior to others that he failed to realize Yoon Seungho’s mockery in the chapter 6. He is definitely overestimating his own capabilities. In the chapter 18, we see him envying the powerful noble while strolling through the property (point 1, 2, 8). For the second point, he is already dreaming how he can betray Yoon Seungho, once he succeeds with the service civil examination. In the chapter 44, he wants Yoon Seungho to follow him to the capital as he wants to be seen with him which I relate to the point 3 above. He was so bothered and jealous that the master helped Baek Na-Kyum in the chapter 22.
He couldn’t bear the thought that Baek Na-Kyum was favored by Yoon Seungho (chapter 10, 22, 40). He wanted to use the painter as spy and had no problem to send him back, although he knew that the man had been raped (see point 5, 6, 7 above). He feels that his status and knowledge are the reasons why he should get a high position. He truly feels entitled, hence he said to Yoon that he was waiting for the right time. The problem with this type of person is their strong reactions, when it comes to jealousy and critics. Since they seek admiration, they hate it, when someone else is getting attention. Their jealousy can even lead them to destroy the person who got admiration. And this is what happened to Baek Na-Kyum. His true goal was to destroy him without dirtying his fingers but he failed, because Baek Na-Kyum caught the attention of the powerful noble. At the same side, he attempted to keep this admiration from the painter as he loves being in the center of attention, this explains why he isolated the painter in the first place. Such people react strongly to critics, they will do anything to get revenge on the person who dared to criticize them. And we have Yoon Seungho who humiliated him many times. The other problem with people suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder is to bring them to get aware of their own mental issues. Sure, back then this “diagnosis” didn’t exist, however this doesn’t change the consequences. People around them suffer very much because they can become abusive and that to anyone. Imagine that such a person gets a high position. First, it will reinforce his entitlement and secondly he will expect to be admired without doing anything. He will exploit the subordinates.
And now, let’s go back to the start of this analysis. The hypnosis was the moment when Baek Na-Kyum was actually liberated from his brainwashing. That’s why his body started reacting after, when he was close to Yoon Seungho and why he started listening to him. However, I doubt that the noble had an idea about the coercive persuasion. This also explicates why the lord was rejected all the time. Baek Na-Kyum was still under the teacher’s influence. I hope that at the end of this analysis, you’ll come to the same conclusion: Jung In-Hun is the real villain in this story and he can become very dangerous.
At the end of the season, he still thinks that he has some connection with the young man, as despite the rejection and the abandonment in the past, Baek Na-Kyum still admired him that’s why he still believes that his harsh words spoken in the chapter 40 out of resent and jealousy didn’t affect his relationship with the low-born. He has the impression that he can still use him as a pawn. Nevertheless, I can imagine that the moment Baek Na-Kyum starts getting more admiration and recognition by society, Jung In-Hun will wish to have him killed.
Persuasion, pride and prejudice towards low-born and nobility are the aspects that define Jung In-Hun so well. His delusion was the cause of Baek Na-Kyum’s unhappiness and tears in reality. Strangely, although the sex session with the mirror seemed to reflect a rather abusive relationship, in reality it freed the painter. That’s why it is important to distinguish between seem and reality. The reality was the coercive persuasion that is so well hidden that you truly need to pay attention to details. I had always said that the man had been brainwashed, yet by discovering the employed techniques, the atrocity of Jung In-Hun’s actions becomes more palpable. Furthermor, it makes me realize that his love for the scholar was fake in reality, just the result of captivity: Stockholm Syndrome.
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If you have already read about my biography, then you know that my real work is teaching French and History. This means that French literature is part of my lessons. I am not sure if many of you are acquainted with French literature, but at some point while writing my analyses, I came to realize that Painter Of The Night contains many parallels to two famous French novels written just before the French Revolution that started in 1789. The first obvious connection is the historical period.
Moreover, the first novel “Dangerous Liaisons”/”Les Liaisons dangereuses” written by the noble Choderlos de Laclos and the second book “Justine: The Misfortunes of Virtue/ Justine ou les infortunes de la vertu” from Marquis de Sades, also another noble, describe both the libertinage and as such the decadence of high society in 18th Century.
Libertinage or libertinism means that a man or woman lives disregarding authority or convention in sexual or religious matters. They are not bound by social etiquette or even religion. This is a movement existing in the 17th and 18th century influenced by The Enlightenment but it doesn’t necessarily mean that this mentality is something positive. Actually, the perverted side of libertinism is criticized in both works as it became reduced to sex. “Dangerous liaisons” and Justine: The Misfortunes of Virtue” caused a huge scandal and even Marquis de Sades was sent to prison due to his writing. Why? The reason is simple: both books portray the old and high nobility as obsessed with sex and full of vices, while at the same time nobles from high and old nobility called themselves honorable and looked down on poor people and new nobles. No one wanted to be seen as a depraved lord or lady.
Now, if we compare these novels with the manhwa, the similarities are quite visible. All the nobles we met are corrupted, living in debauchery or dishonesty. They are far from being honorable and pure. While the low noble Jung In-Hun didn’t take his position seriously and never taught the children, the others from the high nobility were busy with different kind of pleasures: hunting
or even sex orgies.
We never see them working as officials, it looks like only the old beared men, mentioned by Yoon Seungho,
are working for the King, while the young lords show no real interest in improving the country and the living conditions of the commoners. They are all selfish and self-centered thinking about their own pleasures or about their own career in order to get power and wealth. Yet, the commoners have always represented the biggest part of any society in the past. In France, the third state (commoners) represented 98% of order society. I doubt that in Joseon the society was very much different. Consequently, nobility acts as if it was honorable and pure, while in reality they have sex orgies and even practice sodomy which is condemned by social morals. And here is the hypocrisy: for commoners, sodomy is kind of forbidden, while it is tolerated for the nobility. Then in Painter of The Night, we see the nobles visiting the giseang house, a brothel, as a diversion.
Whereas they condemn the painter for being unclean and filthy because he was raised there,
they are actually the reason why the brothel can exist. Without rich nobles, the gisaengs wouldn’t be able to live. Here, the author criticizes the double standards and the hypocrisy of nobility. In my opinion, the teacher didn’t visit the brothel, not because he was virtuous, but because he had no rich friend and no mean to afford them. Remember that he is just a low noble: no huge wealth and no connection. This explains why Baek Na-Kyum doesn’t like nobles
which is revealed in the beginning and sees in Yoon Seungho’s behavior the typical attitude of a noble: selfish, depraved, “consumed by lust”. Besides, I already mentioned in another analysis that Jung In-Hun could have a hidden vice: pedophilia. Furthermore, the popularity for erotic paintings is another clue for the debauchery of the high nobles. In other words, all three works (the manhwa and the two French novels) give a similar portray of the high society: a very pessimistic and corrupted nobility supporting the inequity and the injustice of that system. Their titles give them the authority to rule over the commoners. No one seems to be questioning this order society and its rules. It is fine as long as they benefit from this system.
Nonetheless, this negative picture of the high society (nobility) is not the only common denominator between these three creations. I also see some similarities between the characters from “Dangerous liaisons” and “Justine: The Misfortunes of Virtue”. Let me summarize the first novel “Liaisons dangereuses”. Valmont, a lord from the “noblesse d’épée” (old nobility/sword-nobility) is a libertine and as such has a lot of sexual encounters. He loves seducing women and uses sex as a weapon. All this time, he is exchanging letters with Madame de Merteuil, the female version of a libertine. She is his ex-lover but she would like him to seduce a young woman, Cecile de Volanges, the fiancee of the Marquise’s ex-lover. Her purpose is to get revenge on her former sex partner. During this time, Valmont has another target. He has already planned to seduce the virtuous Madame de Tourvel, the wife of the parliament president, a former bourgeois who became ennobled by the king which means that he is wealthy and influential. In other words, Monsieur de Tourvel belongs to the rather new nobility: “noblesse de robe” (“nobility due an official position”) which was considered as a rival by the old and traditional “noblesse d’épée”. The resent for the new nobles leads the protagonist Valmont to seduce the virtuous wife. It was as if he was declaring war to this new nobility as they are often much richer then the old nobility “noblesse d’épée”. This explains why the author of this novel commented in his notes the following:
“The love of war and the war of love. Glory. The love of glory. Valmont and Merteuil [both protagonists or better said antagonists in the novel] talk about it all the time. The love of combat. The tactics, the rules, the methods. The glory of victory. The strategy to win a very frivolous prize.”
Love, or better said sex, is associated to war. As you can perceive, the author Choderlos de Laclos created Vicomte de Valmont and Madame de Merteuil as unscrupulous cynic, full of sarcasm, cold and calculating. Here, the man perceives Madame de Tourvel as conquest and every possible method is allowed to achieve his goal. Now, you understand how the lord is: cold, manipulative and quite determined in order to achieve his goal. Sex is like war in reality but in order to deceive his victim, his actual prey, he has to act as if he was in love. But for the libertine, sex has nothing to do with love. Sex is just a pleasure, a weapon to defeat and humiliate his rival. Now, you understand why I even imagined that Min would be interested in Yoon Seungho and used Jihwa to get rid of Baek Na-Kyum. Here, sex has become a game of power and submission, just like in war. Just like Yoon Seungho had sex with other nobles, sex was his weapon to show his authority and power. In this manhwa, sex is indeed associated to fight and power. Seungho used his position as lord to submit Baek Na-Kyum at the pavilion. Now, if we compare Valmont with Yoon Seungho, we will find some parallels:
– He acts like a libertine, as he pays no attention to moral values and etiquette. He is definitely more enlightened than his “friends” because he values people based on their talents and actions. He puts a lot of trust in his assistant Kim and accepts the painter right from the start despite his social background. He appreciates the man for his talent.
– He acts like a libertine because he often has sex and doesn’t even hide it. Sex has nothing to do with marriage or love. It is just to bypass time.
– For him, sex has never been real pleasure but war. The true purpose of his depraved life is hurt to his father, to remind him of his sins. Besides, I also think that he never felt his sex partners from the nobility as true friends. They were rather his tools, just like Valmont treats other nobles. On the other hand, the nobles thought that they were using him. Thanks to him, they could get to enjoy parties, even take some benefit. However, the lord was always aware of this. Both were never really free in their choice in reality. Seungho had to choose among the nobles, just like Valmont.
– Their way to approach their target is quite similar. There is strategy behind Seungho’s actions. In the scene 16, he wants to know if the artist is a bottom or a top hence he uses a remark to get his answer.
Then he touches the painter’s head with the headband, that way he creates a certain closeness. Finally, the masturbation symbolizes the climax of his slow approach. He knows that he has to be careful with the painter, since the latter was forced to remain by his side by using Jung In-Hun as leverage. In this scene, it becomes clear that he was already aiming at the commoner.
– Both fall in love with their prey. Striking is that Valmont has to act as if he was in love with Madame de Tourvel and as time passed on, the boundaries between appearances and reality became fuzzy so that the noble fell in love with the woman for real. We have also a mixture of seem and real in the “wedding night” because the noble acts as if he was the “learned sir”. He thought, he could seize the opportunity and taste the young man, yet the latter made love to him so that Yoon Seungho could never forget their night together. Sure, the lord had already fallen for the artist before but he was unaware of it. But the “wedding night” was the trigger for him to have him as his real sex partner/lover. So the illusion plays a big part in their falling in love.
However, there are also huge differences between him and Valmont.
– Seungho became a sodomite due to circumstances hence he never came to enjoy sex, whereas the French Vicomte had pleasure with his partners. Only through the painter’s creation, the lord in Joseon comes to perceive himself in a different light and accepts his homosexuality and the ecstasy accompanying sex. He is liberated.
– Moreover, at the end, Valmont chose to sacrifice his lover over his pride and arrogance so that Madame de Tourvel has a tragic end. I sense that our couple in Painter Of The Night has another ending.
– The biggest difference between these two lords is that Yoon Seungho is less conventional and more open-minded than the French libertine. Yoon Seungho despises Jung In-Hun for not teaching the commoners properly. He reads a lot which shows that he pays attention to education and he has a lot of knowledge. This explains why he doesn’t care about gossips and opinions. Valmont hid his career as womanizer hidden, just like Madame de Merteuil. They hid their “sexual libertine life” behind etiquette and manners which is not the case for Yoon Seungho. He is even willing to cut ties with Jihwa, while Valmont still kept a relationship with Madame de Merteuil through the letters. Both are real hypocrites, whereas Yoon Seungho is by no means deceitful. He is a man of his words, hence the promise to take Baek Na-Kyum as his “bride” should be taken very seriously. He is very self-confident too but his pride didn’t stop him to lower himself in order to give pleasure to Baek Na-Kyum. He is willing to do anything so that the artist accepts him as his lover. As a conclusion, “Dangerous liaisons” has a lot of common points with the manhwa.
Now it is time to take a closer look to the novel “Justine: The Misfortunes of Virtue” written by Marquis de Sades. The author is indirectly famous as the word “sadistic” is deviated from his name. In his book, the described debauchery truly represents the climax of sexual perversion. There is everything as sex is connected to pain and crimes: rape, torture, murder, strange sexual practices, theft etc. The enlightened author thought that evil was the product of nature which would explain why God always permits that crimes and injustice happen. He had a very pessimistic view of humans. He was one of those who somehow doubted the existence of god. Anyway, in this novel, Justine is the “heroine” and she embodies virtue. She is so innocent but because of her virtuous nature, she becomes the prey of sadistic, selfish and greedy persons. She encounters so many misfortunes which lead to her death. Virtue can not be victorious, only sins and crimes have the upper hand. Now, I am sure that you are wondering why I connect this novel to the manhwa. This is quite simple. Sades wrote:
“In order to know virtue, we must first acquaint ourselves with vice.”
And here is the connection between Seungho and “Justine: The Misfortunes of Virtue”. Seungho met first vice, he had sex without feeling anything. He lived as a man “consumed by lust”, until he met Baek Na-Kyum who mirrored him his true self with his words. Baek Na-KYum embodies virtue and innocence and that’s the reason why the lord is able to recognize the difference between his sex partners from the nobility and the young man. He is the total opposite of them, which the lord realizes. He feels and witnesses the virtues exuding from the painter which leads the master to change. Furthermore, through his first sexual encounter, he experiences the difference between sex and love… because of his past experience, he is able to notice the huge contrast and enjoys their love making. Without Baek Na-Kyum’s innocence and virtue, the lord wouldn’t fallen in love with him so quickly. He remained pure, although he was raised in a brothel reinforcing his virtue. It was as if he had resisted temptation to carnal desires in a place full of temptations. His virginity symbolizes his purity and innocence. Finally, during the first season, we witness all the misfortunes Baek Na-Kyum encounters:
– brainwashing and physical abuse by the teacher
– the witnessing of a murder (episode 1)
– the straw mat beating (episode 12)
– the injustice of being accused of a crime he didn’t commit (damage the painting) : episode 10/11
– “drugged” as he is influenced by the aphrodisiac (chapter 35/36)
– the harsh words coming from the teacher “He was born to be a prostitute”
– forced to paint against his will
– Being held captive by the lord through different means (theft, blackmail)
– The sex marathon
– forced to do a blow job
– Victim of theft (the retrieved poem)
– Victim of blackmail (In-Hun as hostage)
– the slaps, being grabbed and dragged by Yoon Seungho
He is definitely a new version of Justine. Just like her, he cries a lot. Tears should be here considered as proof of his purity. It was as if his tears would wash away the sins he just experienced or saw. Sure, he is a little different from her as he lies and is quite daring towards the lord. However, let us not forget that his lies are no real lies as they ooze honesty. Yoon Seungho perceives the truth in his lies. Besides, the insolence is somehow connected to sincerity and honesty which are virtues as such, he is unable to control his thoughts and emotions. It is just that Baek Na-Kyum doesn’t follow completely the social conventions, when it comes to Yoon Seungho.
The only huge difference between two works is the pessimistic perception of humans in Sades’ novel. Here, Yoon Seungho changes for the better, which was not the case for Justine’s enemies/sex partners. Love is the trigger for Yoon Seungho to become a better person, less selfish and more caring. This never happened in the French novel “Justine”. She even dies due to lightening showing that nature is quite evil. There is no love in Sades’ novel due to his negative opinion about nature and humans. Since he wrote many sex scenes, his work is unfortunately reduced to sex, while in reality he used his works to describe the corruption and the decadence of the Ancien Régime. [Explanation for this expression: The Ancien Régime was the political and social system of the Kingdom of France from the Late Middle Ages until the French Revolution of 1789, which led to the abolition of hereditary monarchy and of the feudal system of the French nobility.] He went even further and questioned the nature of god meaning that he criticized religion and Catholic church. That’s the reason why he was sent to prison and spent many years there.
Nevertheless the debauchery in all these works makes me wonder if a coup d’Etat or a huge incident concerning the king will happen. Let us not forget that a purge happened in the past which shows that there was some conflict between noble families and the king. “Dangerous Liaisons” and “Justine: The Misfortunes of Virtue” announce the arrival of French Revolution because of the perversion of nobility. Commoners are no longer satisfied with the privileges of nobility and their scandalous way of life is no longer accepted as such. We should remember that this decadence is described by two nobles revealing that even some nobles felt that something was wrong. Therefore, we have to wonder if the described decadence in Painter Of The Night announces changes in politics too. It is definitely possible that Yoon Seungho will meddle in politics because of Baek Na-Kyum and might change things for the commoners. He did show some concern for them in the chapter 6, when he disapproved Jung In-Hun’s attitude. However, there will be no revolution and abolition of privileges because this never happened in Joseon. The other reason for this assumption is that in another manhwa (“A painter behind the curtain” from Munamu, https://www.tappytoon.com/comics/painter-behind-curtainm), just like Baek Na-Kyum, the painter Ian was exposed to physical abuse and exploitation. In this story he also witnesses the debauchery of nobility in the Ancien Régime which leads to a revolt and later somehow to a revolution. As you can see, I feel that Painter Of The Night could become more political later, yet there won’t be a total upheaval of the social order and the state due to Joseon’s history.
I hope, this analysis has made you want to read more about the two French novels. Feel free to comment. If you liked it, then push the button like or retweet it. Thanks for reading.
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After reading the title, you are probably thinking that this analysis will be about his tragic past. But no… not really, as my focus will be what makes the lord happy and unhappy. As you know, weakness can be negative or positive, like for example chocolate is my weakness and as such many weaknesses are connected to the low-born. Thus I chose different scenes as illustration for my affirmations concerning this topic.
Right from the start, we can observe how Baek Na-Kyum’s face become Seungho’s first and important weakness. He is literally glued to the painter’s face, in particular his hair and his eyes. That’s why in chapter 1, the noble is willing to lower himself and touch his face the moment he sees the painter crying.
Look how gentle and caring he is in this situation, although they have just met. He acts in a similar manner in chapter 26 after the forced sex. He doesn’t like it, when the painter is crying so much.
Here he does show some concern again with the same tenderness. Moreover, the image of the painter’s face full of tears (from the chapter 1) left a deep impression on the main lead so that while having sex with Jihwa at the pavilion, he remembers the artist’s visage. (chapter 3). Fact is that he is so drawn to his face that he can’t help himself to caress the lips or cheek (e. g. chapter 12)
or the hair (chapter 16)
(chapter 35). As you can observe, the master is so attracted by the painter’s beautiful head and face that he always looks at him and even feels the need to touch him. Furthermore, the seme made sure that the commoner would keep his pretty visage without a scar that’s why the former asked Kim to put the ointment directly on his lips after the straw mat beating. This signifies that he even ordered medicine for a simple commoner outlining that Seungho was willing to do anything as he was attracted to his face. And let us not forget that this happened before the seme and the uke made love. The obsession for his face is also confirmed directly by the noble, when in the chapter 31, the protagonist declares that he knows that Baek Na-Kyum has been attracted to him.
This is a proof that his eyes were literally fixed on the artist all the time, even when he was having sex with others. I sense that the eyes are the biggest attraction for the main lead which I will explain further later.
I believe that beauty is not just the only explanation for his fascination. Baek Na-Kyum is so transparent which the noble feels refreshing. Despite the lies and the insolence, Yoon Seungho is capable to perceive the young man’s innocence. Everything in him is exuding sincerity. However, even if the low-born is so easy to read, as time passed on, he becomes the biggest puzzle to solve. Even at some point, Seungho has reached the point that he has to admit that he can’t win this guy over. Imagine, the powerful and fearless lord was almost defeated by such a pure commoner. Why does he find his transparency so interesting? It is related to the world and society he grew up with. All the nobles we saw are or were scheming and manipulative. His so called friends like Min made the “suggestion” to Jihwa to kill the “lover” and the red-haired noble Jihwa played a trick on Baek Na-Kyum by damaging a painting. Then the teacher Jung In-Hun is so fake that he copied more or less a poem from a famous poet and finally his own father betrayed him too. He experienced treachery from his closest relative hence he mistrusts nobility generally. That’s why he doesn’t care about standard morals and etiquette as they are fake. Yoon Seungho is very cautious with people from the same social status, since he has got used to their fakings and schemes. The lord had already felt the naturality and genuineness in those paintings, then he experienced it again with the painter. The latter stands in opposition to the nobles Seungho mingles.
But the lord is not just weak in front of the artist’s face, eyes and his purity, he has a softness for his reddening and tears. Unlike Jihwa who hides his feelings and thoughts behind his closed eyes, his smiles and his rude remarks, Seungho is able to see honest and natural emotions on someone’s face for the first time. As you can observe, the facial expressions are another reason why Seungho fell for the genuine artist. He is able to see that Baek Na-Kyum can’t control his emotions and thoughts. For the first time, our seme is confronted with real emotions through the facial expressions and the gaze. And it definitely helps him to reconnect to his own feelings which had been repressed for so long. Therefore as the story evolves, the more expressions the lord is able to make: he smiles more (chapter 12)/ (chapter 35), his eyes are shining or if he is so angry, his gaze gets so dark.
It was as if his eyes became weapons so that he would kill someone with them. (chapter 30). The beholder is witnessing more and more expressions coming from the lord, while he was so detached in the beginning, when he was sitting in his room looking out of the window. Through Baek Na-Kyum, our seme learns to discover his inner emotions, that’s why we can say that the uke serves as a mirror unconsciously. The eyes were definitely working as a mirror. Baek Na-Kyum showed his sadness, true desires, anger, happiness and thankfulness… a full range of different emotions. But our seme needed to learn how to control them as he had not been used to feel anything for a long time.
But let’s return to the observation mentioned above. Seungho falls for Baek Na-Kyum’s blushing. Each time, he sees the man reddening because of him, he is happy or feels better, just like in the chapter 35.
Although he was terribly fatigued, he couldn’t restrain himself from smiling, when he saw (chapter 35) the painter’s reaction. I could use the scene in chapter 39 as another example. In that scene below, he hears from the low-born that he is blushing because of him.
That’s why he starts teasing him. So this blushing is first connected to his face and secondly to his honesty, which reinforces the idea that the face as such plays a huge part in his falling in love.
The other weakness is that simple words coming from Baek Na-Kyum have a great impact on the protagonist. He is so affected by his comments that he behaves differently. First, he is truly bothered by Baek Na-Kyum’s critic, when the latter reminded him that he was just a man consumed by lust. (chapter 5) Hence he can’t even have sex with Jihwa the same day. Let us not forget that these words were told the day before and the noble had not taken these too seriously. However, this time the critic is not said because the uke is upset but because he is serious. During their exchange, the low-born is trying to say the opposite: he is not a man consumed by lust. So he is lying, yet as I mentioned before, the lies are so transparent that they are no real lies. In other words, the uke didn’t realize that he was in reality reproaching the man to be obsessed with sex. The innocent reminder did the trick. Seungho has now something to think deeply.
Then we have this terrible scene in the bathroom (chapter 26), where Baek Na-Kyum is brutally honest with the lord. While the latter tried to put the blame on the artist that everything happened, because he had accepted the proposal and mistaken him for the teacher, then the low-born replies with such a honesty that Seungho can no longer hide from the truth:
He dares to tell the tyrannical master that he is the one responsible and deep down, the lord knows that he is right. Remember that he didn’t respond to the kiss immediately in chapter 20. Look now how shocked the noble is. His honesty makes it impossible to reply. He is left speechless. No one has ever dared to be so frank and he knows that deep down he can not deny it. Then Baek Na-Kyum yells at him how much he hates him.
This triggers the lord to grab his sword and announce him that he is about to kill someone.
He doesn’t even need to give the identity of the future victim. As you can observe, Baek Na-Kyum’s words have such a power over the lord. He can’t help but react to these reproaches or critics. If we compare this confrontation to the one with Jihwa, we can perceive a huge difference. Seungho is always able to reply and even have the final words, whereas it is not the case with Baek Na-Kyum. And in each time, the painter’s gaze played a huge part in it. Here, he could see the hatred reflecting in these eyes and he couldn’t bear looking at them any longer. He had no response to this harsh reply. Then the most important scene where the beholder can witness the power of Baek Na-Kyum’ s words is in chapter 41. While crying, he begs the lord to leave him alone. He uses the imperative twice so he acts as if he has the upper hand. He gets so upset that he ends up yelling at him.
Furthermore, with his words he is rejecting the lord’s presence. However, Seungho kept holding his hand and forced the young man to show his face because he wanted to see his eyes and facial expressions. Pay attention to the first facial expression when he observes the painter crying.
He is honestly worried and must feel the urge to console him. That’s why he wants to look at the painter’s face because he knows that his facial expressions will reveal the cause of his distress that’s why he refused to listen to him. Here, he acts like a lover full of concern for the painter. However, the way he is rejected upsets the master. I believe the slap was triggered for two reasons. Until chapter 41, we always saw the protagonist being very lenient towards the uke’s boldness. By reminding him of his status, Baek Na-Kyum can’t push the man away. As you see, he used the slap as a way to stay by the painter’s side. Furthermore the reproach Baek Na-Kyum expressed that he did everything he wanted. He was following his order: he painted as requested. However, Seungho was no longer interested in the paintings. He is longing for the commoner’s love. So here again, the noble is reminded of their actual situation. The painter is just an employee hired by him. The words Baek Na-Kyum screamed provoked a certain reaction: he used his status in order to be able not to follow the painter’s wish, besides the uke’s words did reflect the truth. They had a master-servant relationship. On the other hand, the lord wanted to comfort him in the beginning, until he saw the picture of In-Hun and comes to a different conclusion. He believes initially that it is related to the departure of the teacher, then that the painter has been asked to sleep with the lord on In-Hun’s request.
The other weakness is Baek Na-Kyum’s erection. The rich man is desperate to be the cause of his erection. Hence he tries to stimulate him in chapter 31.
The expression “for me” at the end of the sentence emphasizes the expectation of the noble. He wants to be the cause of his sexual desires. Now, you can understand why the lord was so happy to see that the commoner had an erection because of him in the chapter 36. We all know that the real trigger for his erection is the aphrodisiac but if he hadn’t been sexually aroused by the lord before, I doubt that this would have ever happened.
That’s why he is smiling with this erection. He is still careful in this chapter because he knows about the weak constitution of painter but he is very insecure about Baek Na-Kyum. He has no idea how he could improve their relationship. So the erection helps him to provoke pleasure in his sex partner. He knows that it is important for the uke to feel ecstasy so that he will be accepted as his partner.
In other words, Baek Na-Kyum seems to be his weakness: his face, his eyes, his facial expressions, his words and his genuineness are the causes why he fell hard for the painter. But this is not the end. The protagonist has other weaknesses which were revealed in the first season: the shaking hand, the nightmare and the insomnia. They are all mostly related to his family and past. Striking is that only Baek Na-Kyum is able to witness all these reactions. He saw the exhausted face in the chapter 35, (chapter 35) indicating a certain lack of sleep, then the shaking hand with the fist,
while the lord was talking in a confident manner in front of his brother Seung-Won. He is definitely hurt by the request from his brother because he is reminded of his own past. Yet he can’t reveal anything: his own suffering and what really happened back then. He has to suppress everything and the shaking hand with the fist outlines the resent and frustration. Finally, he asks the young man to sleep with him. He hugs him in his sleep, however he seems to suffer from a nightmare.
Yet he has to hide all of this in front of his servants and other nobles because this could be used against him. He is not allowed to reveal his vulnerability. I come to the conclusion that his hidden vulnerability represents another weakness.
Yet, though the painter has become the biggest weakness for Yoon Seungho who fell in love with him, I believe that he will become his biggest strength. Yoon Seungho will be forced to leave his lethargy behind and even to meddle with politics and officials, since Baek Na-Kyum has been able to evoke true protective instincts. Therefore the weaknesses I listed above are actually positive aspects. All of this proves the deepness of the master’s affection. This is not just a physical relationship.
On the other hand, it seems that the lord’s vulnerability will be one of the reasons for Baek Ny-Kyum to fall in love with the lord. First, he was already attracted to him right from the start. Secondly, he noticed the straightforwardness of the lord. He never deceived him (even with the warnings and the blackmail) so that at some point he even started listening to his words. Because of him, he starts questioning the teacher’s true intentions. He has finally accepted to be by Yoon Seungho’s side. I also think that in the second season, Baek Na-Kyum will discover new sides from the lord: his intelligence and education. I am even expecting that Yoon Seungho teachs the uke himself how to read and write so that he can be called “learned sir” and replaces the teacher totally.
Yesterday, I examined the scenes from the chapters 5, 12 and 17, where Yoon Seungho was always sitting in a room and mostly looking out of the window. We noticed that the protagonist showed some privileges towards the painter, although there is a huge gap between their social status. And as time passed on, Yoon Seungho became more proactive as he even left his position in order to seek for Baek Na-Kyum (12/17). Now, we need to analyze the three other episodes, where such a scene occurred, in order to outline the evolution of their “scandalous” relationship.
Let’s focus on the room with a view from the chapter 30. As you can see, unlike in the past, Seungho is no longer sitting, but standing and also moving. He has been beating his servants. This contrasts so much to the earlier scenes as he was always first portrayed as pensive and immobile. The reason for this huge change of behavior is understandable. The noble just discovered that Baek Na-Kyum was no longer at the mansion. He even went from Baek Na-Kyum’s room to In-Hun’s bedchamber to confirm that he didn’t misunderstand the situation. If both are not present, then they ran away. He became so furious and desperate that he couldn’t control his emotions therefore he started beating his servants, even the loyal assistant Kim. That’s the reason why I compare him to a volcano. All his repressed emotions erupt. Then he hears that the two persons have come back. In my opinion, he must have felt relieved for one moment, until he turns his head around and he witnesses that In-Hun and Baek Na-Kyum are together.
The author chose to focus on Seungho’s gaze in order to let the readers vizualize Seungho’s inner emotions. He is shocked, simultaneously feels betrayed and jealous. That’s why he is not just active in the house, once he sees from the window the return of the painter with In-Hun, he literally flies towards Baek Na-Kyum like an eagle so that his prey can’t escape again. This chapter stands so much in opposition to the first 3 scenes, where the noble was portrayed as passive, calm and emotionless. Even if we could see a progression in Seungho’s behavior as he started leaving his room in order to go to Baek Na-Kyum’s side, he was always in control of his emotions, even if he teased the painter in chapter 12. Besides, when he came to the artist’s rescue, he might have humiliated the sex partner Jihwa, yet his actions were precise and reasonable. He punished the spy and not Jihwa explaining the reason why he didn’t do anything to him. For the sake of their past relationship, Yoon Seungho was willing to overlook the betrayal. However, here the noble is literally boiling due to his emotions. He feels frustrated, hurt, jealous but also abandoned as he had ordered the painter to remain by his side the night before. We shouldn’t forget that Yoon Seungho is in love with Baek Na-Kyum that’s why his heart can’t take the escape.
On the other hand, we know the cause for the artist’s elopement. He had been raped and he also witnessed how the resentful lord was about to kill the teacher, if he hadn’t stopped him. The menace made in the chapter 12, In-Hun as a hostage could get hurt, had become real. From Yoon Seungho’s perspective, the artist was still rejecting him and as such defying him which he had never experienced before. We have to imagine that Yoon Seungho as seme has quite a reputation that’s why he has many sex partners. But here, a low-born chose the hypocrite In-Hun over him. He might have not run away but he remained by the teacher’s side. Imagine how the noble must have felt, he was so used to be sought out as sex partner and here nothing is working with Baek Na-Kyum. Neither wealth nor force could have an influence on the painter, he is still bold and fearless despite the threads and the violence experienced.
First the innocent man forget their first night that left such a deep impression in the noble therefore the latter was already frustrated that the young man still had no recollection. So when he forced himself on the painter, he was somehow marking the artist as his… he imagined that by using his power, Baek Na-Kyum would become submissive and obedient just like it happened in the chapter 12. Remember that due to the straw mat beating incident, Baek Na-Kyum bowed to him and showed respect. I have the impression that Seungho thought that the painter would react like in the past. But no… Baek Na-Kyum became even more insolent. He declared to hate him, although the lord wanted to make up for the forced sex and went himself to the bathroom in order to bring him new clothes. Here, he is once again rejected so that Seungho sees no other alternative than to turn his thread into a reality. Imagine the humiliation and the anger for the noble. Furthermore he had always treated the painter with such lenience so far. In other words, Seungho keeps being rejected, all his actions were pointless and the return of the ill-fated couple marks the third rejection. Baek Na-Kyum is still by Jung In-Hun’s side that’s why the master flew like an eagle and caught the painter so brutally. This time, the noble is able to achieve something: Baek Na-Kyum finally concedes in the lord’s request (“he will do anything he wants”) but only because the former doesn’t want their sexual relationship unveiled in front of the homophobic teacher. In order to be still accepted by In-Hun, the artist is willing to do anything for the lord. Here, there was a struggle of forces between Yoon Seungho and Jung In-Hun too and it somehow worked for the powerful lord. Homosexuality was the trigger for Baek Na-Kyum to become submissive and obedient.
And all this happens in the courtyard which reveals how much Seungho is willing to do in order to get what he wants. He doesn’t care about his reputation and gossips. He is not even properly dressed which contrasts again to the former scenes I analysed before. This mirrors his own state of mind: messed up. And now, you understand why Seungho is so violent in his reaction… his heart had never been touched before. All this time, he only used his brain… looking out of the window pensive. His heart was not beating, until he met the painter. The latter brought him back to life but at the same time, he had to experience many new things: insolence, innocence, love and constant rejection! This explains why the lord has sex with the painter for the whole day and night (chapter 30-32). He believes that once Baek Na-Kyum witnesses his own reaction in the mirror, he will come to admit that he feels pleasure with the noble and to accept him as his partner and even as his lover. Notice that the lord and the commoner had sex in his chamber which stands in opposition to their other sexual encounters in the past (Baek NaKyum’s chamber and the pavilion). By bringing back to his chamber, it is clear that Seungho has elevated the painter’s status. He is no longer a servant. However, the lord made the mistake to disregard the artist’s physical disposition so that their sex session ended up with illness.
Before analyzing the next scene with the room with a view, it is quite important to contextualize this chapter. Since Seungho had no idea how the painter would react after this sex marathon, he returns to his chamber with a very indifferent face. He is very prudent but his gaze is focused on the painter’s facial expressions. I mean, the artist could still reject him because the lord risked his life. However, nothing happens. Baek Na-Kyum somehow blushes and he doesn’t seem to reject the noble entirely. He just wants to leave the chamber so that the lord can rest. While he is submissive this time, his behavior reveals that there is still a distance between him and Seungho. That’s why the noble acts in a seductive way. He almost kisses the low-born but allows him to return to his chamber while telling him that he is only sparing him because of his poor health. This is quite important as it outlines that Seungho is still claiming Baek Na-Kyum as his partner. On the other hand, he is left alone in his chamber which bothers him. He definitely wants to share his bed with him therefore he is unable to sleep during that night. I am quite sure that Seungho must have been thinking about strategies how to improve their relationship.
Since he suffered from insomnia, his chamber is a little chaotic the next morning. Kim arrives and opens the windows. Then he helps the lord to get dressed with a green robe. So we see Seungho walking to the window in order to have a view in his courtyard. Then he witnesses how Baek Na-Kyum is talking to the low noble.
While they are chatting together, the lord can’t help himself but smile. However, this is a bitter smile.
Here, Yoon Seungho is rather calm but in fact it is because he is exhausted mentally and physically. Hence he doesn’t seem enraged. On the other hand, this doesn’t signify that the lord no longer feels angry or jealous. He is resigned… he is on the verge of admitting defeat. Therefore he walks over slowly unlike in the chapter 30, which we don’t see as the author focused during this time on Baek Na-Kyum with his teacher. While he walks towards the artist, he is still unsure what he should do. He must have been observing the gestures between these two and even witnessing how Jung In-Hun left the low-born behind in front of a closed door despite the tender gesture before his departure.
However, the low-born remains immobile behind the door, while feeling excluded and somehow abandoned by the teacher. He doesn’t notice that he has been observed by the noble all this time. Deeply in his thought, he suddenly hears Seungho’s voice. For the second time in this chapter, Byeonduck uses a black drawing:
Interesting is that this picture should be perceived as Baek Na-KYum’s thoughts, just like in the other black image. The low-born is lost due to In-Hun’s lack of concern and the feeling of being abandoned, until he is called by the lord. Only then we see that Seungho is indeed holding a sword. Notice the way he is holding it. It was as if he had no force to sway the weapon as it almost lies on the ground. The master has no energy left.
This illustrates Seungho’s exhaustion, frustration, despair and resignation. He would have killed the painter if the latter had followed the teacher. So this walk in the courtyard was a final attempt to get the painter to his side as he wouldn’t have been able to accept another turndown. He would have preferred the artist being dead than anything else. This underlines his possessiveness. No one is allowed to have him, if he can not have him. Then the following picture is seen from Baek Na-Kyum’s perspective:
He sees an exhausted man with dark rings which he didn’t expect. The low-born gets aware that the lord is not feeling well which surprises the young man.
For the first time, Baek Na-Kyum is looking at the lord as a person and not a master. He can’t hide his astonishment. He saw Yoon Seungho the night before and he looked fine and now he is more or less a wreck. Baek Na-Kyum has always seen the lord as someone strong, full of confidence and energy, hence he feared him despite his innocent boldness. Here, he gets to see another side of the lord: weak, sensitive and resigned. Here we can see the young master at his lowest point. He approaches the young painter after seeing his reaction. Due to his facial expression, Yoon Seungho felt that the low-born was no longer pushing him away. Yet he is lost, just like Baek Na-Kyum. In other words, they are both in the same situation: confused and lost. Yoon Seungho, who spent his night thinking how to improve his relationship with him, has no idea how to get closer to Baek Na-Kyum and to win him over, since even his seductive move and his display of concern from last night had no effect on the painter. The latter still went to the teacher’s side.
That’s why he asks for the first time what the painter likes so much, because he senses that only by knowing the painter he will understand him better so that he can get closer to him. This shows that he wants to know the young man for real. Since he is so weak and asks so gently, Baek Na-Kyum’s heart starts beating louder and you can see that the master’s action and question have triggered something in him.
He is sweating because he doesn’t want to reveal his inner emotions which he doesn’t understand too. However this doesn’t go unnoticed by the lord that’s why he wants to say something.
Notice the direction of his gaze. He is definitely starring at the painter and we all know that Seungho has sharp eyes. He was always able to notice his micro-expressions during his sex session with other partners which he confessed during their sex marathon. So the low-born’s reaction does intrigue him but he is unsure. He is well aware that if he asks something too directly, the artist might get scared again. We shouldn’t forget that the protagonist had already noticed the denial of his sexual desires. So he knows that sex as such is a taboo. I can not tell for sure what he was thinking but since he questioned the artist about his likes, I am wondering if he wanted to ask if Baek Na-Kyum had come to like him due to his reaction. But since he is aware that he is walking on thin ice, he stops himself. Moreover, he could have misinterpreted it. Remember that here the lord is at his lowest. Every possible method with the uke failed so far. The talented man is a complicated puzzle in his eyes. The lord’s question took the man by surprise, once again he is lost in his thoughts and feelings again. His presence and his unusual behavior did affect him and he can not comprehend his body reaction. That’s why we have another black picture again with only the lord’s voice represented: “And the painting?”. This brings the uke back to reality. That’s how they are able to reconnect: the painting brings them closer as this is their real common denominator.
Baek Na-Kyum actually misunderstands here the remark. He thinks that the lord was asking for a new painting of their last sex session. However, the lord had something else in mind. He actually wanted to know if he liked the painting where they were together (the one with the masturbation). Due to the misunderstanding, Seungho becomes happy as he finally sees that the painter will create a new painting and is no longer pushing him away like before that’s why he smiles. The prospect of a new painting of their sex encounter enlightens his mood. Now he knows that the painter has memories of their night together, which makes him happy. Finally, he gets aware that their sex marathon did leave an impression on the painter.
Furthermore, despite his own predicament, Seungho still shows concern for Baek Na-Kyum as he touches his head in order to ensure that he has really recovered from his fever. Sure, the motivation behind the gesture was initially different: he couldn’t restrain himself from touching his face after hearing that the young boy had not forgotten their sex together. Nevertheless, this contrasts so much to the previous teacher’s behavior who was feeling well but didn’t take seriously the poor condition of Baek Na-Kyum. He just left him behind. That’s why I believe that the more Yoon Seungho reveals his vulnerability to the painter, the more the low-born will be moved and fall in love with him. This observation is also confirmed in the next episode. Here, he witnesses the lord having a nightmare which somehow troubles the painter. The latter prefers lying to the teacher than letting him know about the content of the conversation.
In other words, the chapter 30 represented the climax of Seungho’s activity. He rushed to the painter in order to ensure that the one doesn’t leave his side, whereas the chapter 35 marks a pivotal moment in Yoon Seungho’s life: he is on the verge of admitting defeat. We could say that this chapter symbolizes his fall, he has no energy left. He is truly exhausted, resigned and lost, until he wtinesses that Baek Na-Kyum is able to perceive him and still wants to keep his promise: painting erotic images of their sex session. As such, he was about to become passive again but their conversation makes him realize that he was wrong again. Baek Na-Kyum has indeed changed a little hence he starts with a first step. The painter should work again on a new picture in his chamber. However, everything moves much quicker than expected because during the same day (evening) the noble sees that the artist has an erection in his presence, then the latter spends the night with him which he had always wished. Because of that, Seungho becomes more optimistic and decides to claim him as his “bride”.
Finally, we have the last chapter of the first season where the room with a view plays a role again. That’s why as illustration I chose this picture for this analysis. It represents the final change in Seungho’s life: he has become passive again, he is observing the courtyard while smoking. Does it mean that Seungho has returned to the man he was at the beginning? No, not really. He has obtained what he wanted: the painter is now his partner. Therefore he no longer needs to become proactive, to leave the room in order to get his attention. The painter already belongs to him. Strictly speaking, Seungho can become a neutral person again who refuses to meddle with people’s life and politics. He already has what he needs.
This time, Baek Na-Kyum is the one walking in his direction. For the first time, the readers observe the painter walking towards the noble’s house, in the past it was the opposite: Seungho was looking for the painter. Even, when Yoon didn’t come to his side, Baek Na-Kyum either left his room for a walk or he appeared out of the sudden in front of Yoon Seungho in the room. This actually announces the next evolution of their love story. It seems that Baek Na-Kyum will be the one who comes closer and closer to the lord. Furthermore, the painter stops and even looks at the master. This image illustrates that Baek Na-Kyum is no longer blind because of the teacher. He is able to notice the lord looking at him. Yet he doesn’t bow like in the chapter 12 nor fear him and tries to run away. He is quite calm. In this scene and the one before, we saw the artist paying attention to the lord. Sure, since the young man doesn’t go to the lord’s side, there is still some distance between them, however now Baek Na-Kyum is able to notice his gaze and his presence and even takes the time to look at him. This reinforces the impression that Yoon Seungho has been able to change the painter’s perspective. Interesting is that both are looking at each other, while it is snowing. There is this tradition in South Korea that if you watch the first snow falling with your partner, then this person will be your fated love. As you can see, the snow seems to indicate that both persons are fated.
But the return of Seungho’s passivity will be short-lived in my opinion. Seungho will be forced to meddle in people’s life and even politics because of Baek Na-Kyum. First, we have the planned assassination. Secondly there is In-Hun, who could use his new position in order to get revenge on the repeated humiliation he suffered in the past, if he succeeds the exam. Finally his father won’t remain inactive too and could use the younger son. However, the passivity and somehow neutrality doesn’t signify that Yoon Seungho has no clue what is happening around him. Since he has been hurt in the past, one of his ultimate goals was to never be defenseless again. Therefore I perceive that Yoon Seungho has never revealed his true power and skills. He has been using his bad reputation and the rumors about his declining family in order to deceive people. With a low profile he can ensure not to become a target of politicians or of the king.
Funny is that the assassin is standing on the roof which somehow confirms my belief that the room with a view had an important signification. Besides, just like in the English novel where Georges Emerson moved closer to Lucy Honeychurch in order to pursue her and Lucy feared the disapproval from society if she acknowledged her love for the freethinking man, Seungho had to fight for Baek Na-Kyum, just like the latter needs time to realize his feelings for the nonconformist noble. Here, I sense that the fight for their love will have more repercussion on society and politics. Seungho fears more the loss of Baek Na-Kyum than the rejection from people. And this leads me to the final conclusion: I am expecting that the attempted assassination will trigger another big eruption but also will open the painter’s eyes. It could be the moment where he sees the lord very vulnerable again.
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I chose this title, well aware that there is a book written by E. M. Forster titled “Room with a view”. I am not sure if younger generations are familiar with this great novel because I often mention this book in my History classes and most of my students (in Germany) have never heard of this book. People tend to reduce the story just to a romance. Nevertheless it mostly deals with the repressive Victorian values for women and the class differences. It criticizes how in England working people are despised by classes from the high society (high bourgeoisie, nobility and even the clergy) in reality. Therefore it takes a long time for the female protagonist Lucy Honeychurch to admit her love and to decide to marry George Emerson, a freethinking employee of a rail company over a very traditional man Cecil Vyse belonging to the higher society. This means, she marries below her status. With just these aspects, we observe parallels between this story and our manhwa: the huge gap between Seungho’s status and the painter’s, the denying of Baek Na-Kyum’s attraction and starting feelings for the lord and finally the strict moral standards restraining their future love for each other [Baek Na-Kyum is not aware of his feelings yet].
However the real reason I chose this title is the role played by the window and the lord’s room. Like I had mentioned in my analysis “Yoon Seungho: a tragic figure or a hell-raiser?”, Byeonduck often put the protagonist standing in a room and watching through the window. First, his position indicated his passivity as he was a spectator. It was as if he was not really living but letting bypass time. Nonetheless it also reflects the evolution of the relationship between the seme and Baek Na-Kyum. Thus the fourth similarity with the English novel is the role played by the room with the view. Without this, their relationship wouldn’t have changed. That’s why my focus here will be about the scenes where the room and the view played a huge part and compare them to each other in order to mirror the different phases of their relationship. But where did the room and the view play a role? We have altogether 6 scenes: chapter 5, 12, 17, 30, 35 and 44.
Now let’s take a closer look to the first scene which is situated after Yoon Seungho confiscated the treasured poem written by the teacher Jung In-Hun. In the chapter 5, the beholder witnesses how the lord is looking out of the window alone while smoking.
Suddenly, he hears Baek Na-KYum’s voice apologizing. This shows that he didn’t hear the approaching steps or didn’t feel his presence revealing that his mind was wandering elsewhere as he only turns his head around, when he hears the low-born’s voice.
Interesting is that the painter didn’t even announce his arrival, he came suddenly so that we can say that Baek Na-Kyum was quite bold here. A servant usually would let the master know that he would like to say something to the master. He can’t barge like that without greeting him properly. Interesting is that Yoon Seungho is not at all bothered by his lack of manners. He doesn’t dismiss the man or warns him for crossing the line. Yoon Seungho has even to question the painter for the reason of his abrupt apology. It comes out of nowhere and there is no explication. During their conversation, we can feel the artist’s clumsiness because he repeats the words he said the day before while giving the explication.
Here he doesn’t even realize the other big mistake he is making. Actually, he is reminding Yoon Seungho of his judgemental description: he perceives him as a man consumed by lust. Actually, his words in this conversation trigger something in the noble. The day before, the latter didn’t really take to heart the critic coming from the painter but now, it is a little different. Furthermore he senses that the apology is not entirely honest as there is a motivation behind it. He would like Yoon Seungho to return the poem which the latter refuses. His lack of politeness is even reinforced as he is almost giving an order as he uses the imperative.
The lord is honestly tolerant during this whole scene, in fact he is amused by Baek Na-Kyum’s behavior. The painter thinks, he could fool the noble with his somehow insincere apology but Yoon Seungho tricks him by accepting the apology without returning the poem. He is somehow entertained by Baek Na-Kyum. He senses the innocence behind his daring attitude, he is so transparent.
What caught my attention here is that from their first meeting, the artist has always behaved in a reckless manner giving the impression that he was nonconformist. We know that when it comes to homosexuality, here Baek Na-Kyum symbolizes the summit of conformism. But let’s go back to the bold behavior in front of the lord. Baek Na-Kyum tried to run away, destroyed the first picture and lied so many times, however the protagonist was never truly offended. He always forgave him, besides his lies could be discovered immediately. Consequently, the low-born distinguished himself from all other people evolving around Yoon Seungho. They all used to show respect due to his social status or to fear him, notwithstanding they were not honest with him. So I guess, the noble must have felt a certain closeness to the painter who was so transparent and sincere, even with his lies. Sure, the admiration for the painter’s talent played a role for the high tolerance as well.
If you pay attention to the situation here, you’ll observe that the lord remains calm and almost emotionless, though the painter showed a certain disrespect for the noble, it looks like he was not offended. Baek Na-Kyum never realized his boldness all along. Striking is that this conversation is the reason why Seungho can’t have sex with Jihwa in the same chapter. Despite the appearance, the lord took the critic coming from the uke more personally… and let us not forget that before, he never paid attention to hearsay or judgemental attitude through gossips. This scene reveals that this conversation did affect the lord to the point that he couldn’t have sex.
As conclusion, the noble shows a tolerant attitude towards the daring low-born, yet simultaneously we witness during that day that Seungho is a little sensitive, when it comes to Baek Na-Kyum. He doesn’t like to be perceived by him as someone obsessed with sex. Finally, it becomes clear that Seungho doesn’t abide to moral codex so strictly. He might be merciless while killing a servant, yet he is not someone valuing manners over reason or common sense. We get to see glimpses of his tolerance.
Then in the chapter 12, Jihwa visits the powerful noble unannounced, while the noble was looking out of the window.
Striking is that Seungho shows no courtesy at all because he doesn’t receive the guest properly. He just remains in the room indicating that this sudden visit is not really welcome. However, he doesn’t truly reject the encounter and lets the noble sit to his table. Here, he keeps smoking while looking out of the window. Then we have our adorable Baek Na-Kyum stepping out of his room for a walk.
The moment Seungho sees a glimpse of the painter, he stops smoking. You can observe that Baek Na-Kyum has caught his attention. He is intrigued and doesn’t pay attention to Jihwa’s comment. In only two pictures, the relationship between Jihwa and the alluring seme is defined: Jihwa is just a sex partner and is only a tool for the main character. Despite their hot sex at the pavilion, Seungho’s perception and “feelings” for the noble have not changed at all. After leaving his room, the painter must have felt the lord’s gaze because he shows his respect by bowing. He is quite obedient and submissive. His attitude has changed due to the beating, he is more respectful.
Jihwa noticed the lack of response from Seungho and the gaze directed to outdoors. Hence he turns the head and views the painter. The image above reflects the relationship between the seme and Baek Na-Kyum. He is just an employee or servant that’s why he bows his head. What is more surprising is the protagonist’s next move.
He literally abandons his guest and leaves the room. Imagine the huge contrast. He didn’t even bother to go outside to join his guest, a noble, he remained inside. Yet he goes to the courtyard in order to meet a domestic. Imagine the humiliation and frustration for Jihwa, since he is belonging to the high society. Seungho is literally ignoring society’s values. He shows more respect for a commoner than a noble. We can understand why Jihwa is annoyed by Seungho’s behavior. Furthermore, he thought that he had been able to damage the relationship between his sex partner and the painter. In this scene, we witness the importance of the artist in Seungho’s life. First, he hasn’t slept with him yet. Secondly, Baek Na-Kyum had just been reprimanded by the lord for ruining a picture. So this illustrates that despite the fault, Seungho was very forgiving and showed a different attitude towards the low-born. He usually shows no mercy and doesn’t change his opinion, once a verdict has been passed, even Jihwa pointed this out. But this privileged treatment doesn’t just end here.
The rich noble joins the artist’s side with a smile despite their past violent argument and the punishment. He is even teasing the “servant” underlining his quite friendly behavior towards the artist. He shows neither resent nor pettiness in this moment, unlike our detestable teacher Jung In-Hun.
He even caresses the painter’s hair while confirming his full recovery. Let us not forget that the lord only allows Jihwa to come close to him and touch him, where they have sex. As soon as the sex session is finished, there is no intimacy and closeness. The lord keeps people at a distance, until he met Baek Na-Kyum. The latter is an exception. Here again, he touches the painter just like in their first encounter. Seungho shows no disdain which outlines his open-mindedness. He doesn’t view the painter as filthy and unworthy of his touch. This contrasts to Jihwa and In-Hun’s point of view. Here Seungho demonstrates his carefree attitude towards social values and norms. He still doesn’t care about the social status of the painter. Since the lord perceived Baek Na-Kyum’s true talents, he is worthy to be touched. This illustrates that titles mean nothing to the lord. In other words, this scene illustrates the lord’s nonconformist attitude contrasting so much to Jihwa’s and In-Hun’s mentality. However, we shouldn’t overlook that here Seungho is not entirely nice towards the artist. He uses the closeness to remind him of their deal:
The seme is definitely threatening the painter. It is their secret and he wants to make sure that the painter won’t run away. Furthermore, this image unveils Jung In-Hun’s true situation: he is just a hostage. Since Baek Na-Kyum has experienced himself the harsh treatment once, he knows that his words are not empty promises. So their visible intimacy is deceiving: there is a struggle of forces and the noble has the upper hand. However, for Jihwa it looks totally differently.
He only sees the whispering, bringing to light the closeness and the attention given to the painter, whereas he has been left behind and excluded. He has no idea that in reality, Seungho is not so nice towards the painter hence in the chapter 43, he thinks that the artist has in fact seduced the noble. He is just a spectator. Consequently, he feels neglected and threatened by Baek Na-Kyum as the noble is longing for Seungho’s love. He used sex in order to remain close to his sex partner hoping that at some point their sex together will make the powerful lord fall in love with him. Their sex session at the pavilion let him believe that his dream came true, while in reality this didn’t happen. To conclude, this scene revealed that the noble already treated the painter differently and even disregarded societal norms and values but at the same time, we see a moving Seungho who doesn’t stay sitting. For the first time, he becomes active which leaves the impression that the protagonist is coming to life. Besides, his view from the window allowed him to come closer to the servant and reestablish his relationship with the artist that had been almost ruined with the punishment.
From this scene, we jump to the chapter 17.
Here, Seungho is in his chamber thinking about the painter as the night before he masturbated him. He remains there fully awake but his windows are closed hence he has no idea what is happening outside. During this time, Baek Na-Kyum is getting slapped and insulted by a jealous Jihwa. However, he starts hearing the servants talking. Normally, he pays no attention to gossip. Yet, he must have heard Baek Na-Kyum’s name because he turns his head to the closed window.
This scene is quite important because this explicates that not only Seungho’s eyes and mind are revolving around the painter but also his ears. He even pays attention to gossip, another distinction from his normal behavior. He doesn’t usually care for chatter, in particular concerning his own reputation, but when it comes to Baek Na-Kyum, it is different. Here, this paints a certain sense of protectiveness coming from the protagonist. That’s why he leaves the room without calling the servants and joins them in order to question for the cause of this chatter.
Here, his sudden arrival astonishes the domestics, they didn’t expect him to appear like that. The noble usually has servant Kim to attend to his every need because the latter waits for his call after waking up. None of this happened. Here, we see that the lord has no problem to lower himself and asks for the reason of their trouble. This scene confirms one more time that Seungho breaks convention for the painter. His carefree attitude towards normal standards reflects his detachment towards society and their values. He is willing to do anything for the painter as he is well aware that this gossip is related to Baek Na-Kyum, although the content of their conversation is not revealed. For that, the reader has to fill the blanks. Even with a closed widow and no view, the protagonist was still looking out for the painter. This explains why Seungho intervened very quickly. The result of this is that Jihwa is humiliated. This illustrates the escalation of Jihwa’s exclusion. In the chapter 18, the noble is literally excluded from Seungho’s life and becomes an outcast. Imagine the irony of the situation. Actually, the painter should be the outcast due to his social status. He was raised in a brothel and as such, he should be the one getting dragged and not the noble. Here, we witness the reverse. Nobility has no value for the main protagonist. This points out again his disregard for convention and his freethinking. He definitely embodies freedom which reminds us of George Emerson, although their social status is reversed. But at the same time we see the protagonist becoming more proactive. Little by little, he is losing his passivity due to his admiration and attraction to the painter. He is even willing to cut ties with his noble sex partner for a low-born’s sake. The reader senses that Seungho not only protects the uke but has already considered as his possession. No one is allowed to touch him.
As conclusion for the first part, through a detailed examination, I could distinguish Yoon Seungho’s open-mindedness and tolerance. He is definitely a free spirit contrasting so much to Jihwa and In-Hun. He doesn’t follow moral standards so blindly, he shows respect for Baek Na-Kyum because of his talent and his attraction. Furthermore, right from the start the main protagonist has always treated the painter differently, although the latter is a low-born because of his daring but genuine attitude. The artist had even more value than Jihwa. Seungho’s interest and concern for Baek Na-Kyum became more obvious over time. He is even willing to leave his favorite place, observing the courtyard from the window. He is meddling more and more in his courtyard which in my opinion illustrates that Seungho is starting living again. All this coincides with his sexual liberation. Consequently, we can see that despite having often sex, Seungho was not really living, just bypassing time but Baek Na-Kyum changed everything. From his window, Seungho felt the need to leave his room and come closer to him. He would go any length for him, sacrificing a rich friend.
Finally, the analysis of these first three chapters with the room revealed a lot in common with the English novel “Room with a view”, a connection between two people belonging to two different classes: a certain carefree attitude towards the conventions, even Baek Na-Kyum treated the lord differently with his frankness and boldness.
I decided to make a break here because I feel that this would have become another long analysis but I have other duties in real life. I still have three scenes to explain in details, therefore I can post the rest of the analysis on Saturday so that the readers get to read an analysis per day. I am trying to stick to this… we still have many days left, until the new season starts. I decided to write so many analyses in order to bypass time and not to miss too much the manhwa. Feel free to comment and push the button “like” or retweet it, if you enjoyed reading it. For translation, I can recommend deepl.com.