Painter Of The Night: Traces of Candide in the manhwa

This is where you can read the manhwa.  But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes.

For francophone readers: Candide ou l’optimisme de Voltaire- Intégrale (Français) 2013 de DELPATURE+DUFRANNE (Auteur) ISBN-13 : 978-2756047805

After seeing the illustration for the analysis, you might think that Candide is a graphic novel but you are totally wrong. Here I am just using the cover of the BD (the French term for graphic novel/Comic), since in reality Candide or the optimism [this is the whole title] is a philosophical tale written by the French philosopher Voltaire in the Age of Enlightenment (18th Century). Fact is that BD has become so popular in France that famous novels are now adapted into graphic novels thereby these great stories are not forgotten by younger generations. It goes so far that important Historians even use BD in order to bring their knowledge closer to public. You might not know but in France BD is considered the 9th art, meaning that it has the same value than poetry, paintings or movies.

Since I teach History and French for German students, you can understand why I own graphic novels. It allows the students to discover History and classic French literature without the problem of the language barrier since there are pictures and the quantity of text has been reduced. Another advantage for Candide as BD is that it helps the readers to grasp better the irony and sarcasm of Voltaire behind this work. This author wanted not only to condemn Leibniz’s theory but also to incite his readers to use critical thinking and to give some advice about the pursuit of happiness. That’s why Candide is considered as a philosophical tale. At the same time, this story is a satire because Voltaire criticized different problems in European societies in the 18th Century, like intolerance, the absurdity and atrocity of war, slave trade and its ignominy, the hypocrisy of Church, absolute monarchy etc.

Before comparing the manhwa to this philosophical tale, I need to summarize the story. Young and naive, Candide grows up happily in the castle of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh. He admires the ridiculous theories of the tutor Pangloss, according to which “everything is for the best”. But one day, the baron surprises Candide embracing his daughter Cunégonde, chasing him out of this paradise because it is unimaginable that a bastard would marry a noblewoman. Immersed in the horrors of the world, Candide discovers that reality contradicts Pangloss’ teaching: wars and natural disasters are everywhere. His initiatory journey takes him all over the world (Holland, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Surinam, Italy, Turkey) and with each misfortune he experiences, he doubts more and more the doctrines of his tutor. During his wandering, he finds Cunégonde and Pangloss on several occasions but each time he gradually discovers the true nature of these admired people. Cunégonde becomes a courtesan and uses her beauty to survive or we could even say to enjoy life, while the tutor is disfigured by syphilis but continues to preach that every misfortune is for the good of man. However, his love for Cunégonde and his love of life encourages the main lead not to fail into despair and in the second part of the story, the protagonist starts questioning the definition of happiness. After his long and painful apprenticeship, the protagonist comes to the conclusion that in order to be happy, one must work. Through work, evil like vice, boredom and need can be avoided. Moreover, fortune and ambition cannot be sources of happiness. One must also abandon sterile reasoning (doctrines) but rather use his own reason. Only thinking nourished by experiences and observations allows people to build their own happiness. At the end of the story, Candide finds Cunégonde again but marries her out of duty, she has become ugly and acrid. With the people he met during his wanderings, he manages to form a community where only work distinguishes them. Through this philosophical tale, Voltaire advocates equality, the abolition of social order and democracy.

Now, you might be wondering why I see some connections between both stories. First, certain figures coincide with the persons from Painter Of The Night. Yet the most important similarity is in my opinion the mentality and philosophy preached in both works.

However, let’s start with the persons from philosophical tale. I only mentioned the three most important characters from Candide: Candide, Cunégonde and Pangloss. The manhwaphiles can already envisage who in Painter Of The Night resemble the main character from the French novel. Baek Na-Kyum is a new version of Candide. This is quite simple.

First they share the same important feature. Both embody innocence and purity. Candide is so naive that he always falls into traps and can’t perceive the dishonesty in the people he meets. Due to his candor, the readers are even misled because the main lead takes by face-value what he has been told. Let me give you an example. In a certain chapter, what Candide calls a hotel is in reality a jail. Therefore it is very important to read between the lines and pay attention to the words used by the author in order to comprehend the real situation. That’s how innocent and ironical Candide and Voltaire are. Now, you understand why I mentioned above how useful Candide as BD can be.

Both main leads have unknown origins. Candide is rumored to be the illegitimate son of the baron’s sister who refused to marry the father because he wasn’t noble enough. Baek Na-Kyum has been adopted by the head of the gisaeng house so his biological parents are unknown. In addition, both are considered as low-born.

The third similarity is their positive and forgiving nature. At no moment, Candide resents his teacher for preaching his ridiculous doctrine, the corrupted and double-faced people who stole or even betrayed him, to the point that he wants to seek revenge. At the end, the young man even accepts his old tutor in his new created garden. Notice that despite the rape, Baek Na-Kyum did not resent the lord later revealing his forgiving disposition. Both never fall into despair. Baek Na-Kyum might choose to run away but he isn’t depressed. He doesn’t resign or wants to commit suicide. Both are quite persistent and are able to learn from their mistakes. Both learn through their experiences and observations. Baek Na-Kyum is a little more obedient after the straw mat beating and later admits his own sexual orientation as he can no longer lie to himself. The mirror helps him to witness his own arousal. Furthermore, in the chapter 42, he finally confesses that their first night together did affect him.

Candide and Baek Na-Kyum meet one tragedy after another because of the doctrines they were taught by their teachers. However, there are huge differences between the two main characters. First, the nature of Jung In-Hun’s indoctrination diverges: homosexuality is filthy. Pangloss never spoke about sexuality. Besides, Baek Na-Kyum was exposed to physical abuse and coercive persuasion, while Candide lived happily in the Garden of Eden, until he was expelled. The painter’s trauma was so huge that he repressed these terrible events, he only sees a glimpse of it in a nightmare. Because of the fake preaching, Baek Na-Kyum is unable to understand that all his misery has been caused Jung In-Hun in reality. Like I have expressed it before, if he hadn’t denied his own homosexuality, he might have succumbed to the lord’s seduction much quicker before.

Consequently just like Candide, the artist is banished from paradise (see my analysis about Fall of man) the moment he discovers that he broke his vow of chastity and he is raped. In both works, sex is the reason for the expulsion of paradise. Therefore we could say that both novels are referring to Fall of man. Nevertheless, Cunégonde is the one initiating the move on the very pure man. The reason for her behavior is the following. Cunégonde had witnessed in the woods, how the tutor Pangloss seduced a maid and decided to apply this new teaching onto our naive protagonist. Now, I am showing another drawing from the graphic novel:

This is what Pâquette is saying: “Oh Master Pangloss, flood me with your knowledge.” In the next picture, she even adds: “How sweet is your teaching!” I am quite certain that you can sense the humor in this situation. We could call this sex education (LOL!).

Another connection is the corporal punishment for example. After being forced to become a soldier for the King of Bulgary, Candide is caught picking flowers which is judged by his superior as an act of desertion hence he is condemned to be beaten 36 times by the whole regiment. This reminds us of the incident leading to the straw mat beating. Baek Na-Kyum became the victim of an injustice and was punished by Yoon Seungho to the straw mat beating.

I believe that all the points I wrote above are convincing enough to validate my comparison between Candide and Baek Na-Kyum. They have so many common denominators that I could continue writing about it for hours. But this is not my main point. My purpose for this association is the following. Through his bad experiences and his own reflection, Candide becomes the person who changed the most compared to all the other characters. Little by little, he starts criticizing the dogmas told by Pangloss until he can no longer accept this doctrine. Then he starts using his own mind and observing thereby he becomes a very mature and responsible man. He is the one who is able to find an answer how to get happiness and how to avoid misery. That’s why this philosophical tale is called an initiatory voyage. The main lead gained real knowledge through experiences and observations. In the final chapter, Candide promotes work and encourages talent, he values critical thinking and is no longer accepting false preaching, social hierarchy and as such order society.

If the manhwaphiles return their attention to Painter of The Night, they will notice a similarity in the painter’s growth. Due to his observations, he starts perceiving the main lead differently. That’s the reason why the chapter 35 is so significant. While the artist felt Jung In-Hun’s lack of concern and the superficiality of his kindness , he could see Yoon Seungho’s exhaustion, vulnerability and real concern for his health.

The lord had stroked his head because he couldn’t resist due his attraction, yet simultaneously he wanted to know about his physical conditions.

He even showed an interest in his person, he wanted to know about his likes and dislikes. This explicates why the commoner decides not to betray Yoon Seungho and to lie to Jung In-Hun in the chapter 38. With his own eyes, he recognized the lord’s fatigue and weakness that’s why Byeonduck gave us each time a picture of the painter reacting to his observations. (chapter 35)

chapter 38

He has become so attentive and observant that he is able to detect the lord’s vulnerability and distress, hence he can not follow the teacher’s order and prefers lying. As you can now recognize, the first season of Painter Of The Night represents the slowly transformation of an innocent and manipulated man who gives up on his teacher’s dogma. However, this doesn’t mean that he has entirely perceived his learned sir’s true personality. I doubt that he has really realized the manipulation and viciousness of Jung In-Hun. Therefore I predict that they will meet again, just like they parted from each other in the past. Remember that Baek Na-Kyum became a drunk because he could no longer be by the low noble’s side. Notice the parallels between Candide and Painter Of The Night. Candide’s path crosses his teacher’s many times but their encounter is always limited in time. The irony is that while the low noble thinks that he can still use Baek Na-Kyum as his pawn, the low-born is no longer naive. Hence he decides to cut ties with his former teacher for good. That’s why he asks the valet Kim to get rid of the painting. As a first conclusion, Baek Na–Kyum’s apprenticeship looks a lot like Candide’s. At the end, he is no longer delusional about Jung In-Hun’s feelings for him and has been able to reject the teacher’s false preaching. He will now go his own way and has already abandoned his former teacher for real.

Now, it is time to focus on the other figures from Candide: Cunégonde and Pangloss. In my opinion, Jung In-Hun is a combination of Pangloss and Cunégonde.

Initially, the tutor has a similar work like Jung In-Hun. Voltaire described Pangloss as teacher of “metaphysico-theologico-cosmo-lonigology.” This long expression is full of raillery as it reflects the emptiness of the teaching. Furthermore the word lonigology contains a reference to “nigaud” /pronounciation: nigo/ which means “stupid” in French. His name is also another mockery because Pangloss means “all-tongue”. But be aware that here the author is rather saying that this man is full of air, all-tongue signifies “empty talk”. No surprise when I associated the Korean version to air in the analysis [see “The window, the door, the air and their signification]. Hence you can imagine that the French figure does lip service for the baron too, just like the low noble in Painter of The Night. In other words, the tutor can be described as fake, arrogant and even stupid. Imagine, he explains to his gullible pupil that nose were created for glasses. The poor man is mixing cause and effect. Glasses were invented for bad eyesight and not for nose. Here, you can understand why I use this example for revealing the tutor’s stupidity. Both teachers are wearing glasses. As a first conclusion, their respective personality is really similar.

Interesting is that Pangloss is the representative of the theory of Gottfried Leibniz (18th Century), which I’ll elaborate now. The German philosopher affirmed that God is good since he created the best of all possible worlds. But if the created universe is globally perfect, some of its parts are touched by an evil necessary to the triumph of Good. According to the German, every action, every evil is part of a rigorous chain of events leading to a good. In other words, people should accept evil and tragedies since at the end, all this will lead to a good outcome. Therefore the philosopher’s theory is called “optimism”. For him, humans don’t need to change the world, they should accept everything occurring to them as God has already planned it. The necessary evil is just a part of God’s design in the end. Now, you can understand what this theory means. The professor advocates stagnation and is not encouraging criticism, progress and new discoveries. He is not interested in improving the world, he wants to keep the actual situation forever. Men should accept misfortunes and be resigned to their fate. And that’s exactly what Jung In-Hun is telling to Yoon Seungho in the chapter 6. He only sees teaching as diversion because the commoners should remain in their mountains and accept their conditions. Their fate is already determined, just like Baek Na-Kyum was fated to become a prostitute.

Although Pangloss is a little fake, the teacher from Joseon is a bigger hypocrite since the low noble isn’t accepting his own condition. He is ambitious and dreams of wealth and power because he is a noble. Maybe this is the only huge difference between Pangloss and Jung In-Hun. The tutor is not ambitious because he is a true believer of Leibnitz’s theory. This is not the case for the poor aristocrat, he just wants the stagnation for commoners but not for himself. That’s the reason why he forced the painter to stop from painting because he was jealous and didn’t want a low-born to succeed and climb the social ladders. To summarize, the scholar is more double-faced than Pangloss but both preach the same: “stagnation”, “this is for the best”. Jung In-Hun is definitely more vicious and scheming. Yet they are both stupid because the man with glasses fell into the trap set by Yoon Seungho and didn’t see that the latter only made empty promises.

Just like Candide, Pangloss encountered disaster after one another. He loses his job as tutor because the castle is invaded and destroyed by the King of Bulgary. Furthermore, the sexual encounter with Pâquette brought him syphilis hence when he meets Candide in Holland by chance, he is no longer healthy and admirable. After getting cured from syphilis, Pangloss loses an ear and an eye, increasing his blindness and deafness to the reality of the world. Let me remind you that glasses symbolize lack of foresight and judgement. That’s why Pangloss never changes till the end. He spent too much time living in his own world and his books that he is not capable to learn through experiences and observations. Jung In-Hun takes exactly after the former tutor. First, he has never mingled among scheming and treacherous nobles before, since he lived in the countryside among commoners. Besides, he only had his library to cultivate his knowledge as he refused to meddle with low-born. That’s why the low noble is either seen wandering in the mansion and on the streets alone or standing close to books. He has no real interaction with others.

But let’s go back to Pangloss. For him, since there’s no effect without a cause, he accepts his misfortune and never tries to discover the true origins of his own misery. Like I mentioned above, he often mixes cause and effect. He is not able to ponder and reflect on his own wrongdoings. According to him, the origin of his sexually transmitted disease is not the decadence of people, but love. However, if you pay attention to the pictures from the French graphic novel, Pangloss never made love to Pâquette, he just had sex. In this entire novel, sex is never associated to love but rather to perversion and dissipation. There is no fidelity in the French story, only Candide remains chaste and faithful in the sense he never falls in love with another woman. Yet, in the finale chapter, he no longer has deep feelings for his wife. She is just appreciated for her talent as baker.

Remember what I wrote about Jung In-Hun’s worries and problems, his future seems so uncertain. I detect that he will have a similar path: tragedy is on his way.He has no idea what awaits him at the capital. The protagonist warned him but the latter didn’t comprehend the message or was unwilling to take the advice. He is too ambitious and arrogant to envision this possibility. And the powerful lord reminded him once what it means, when you get sponsored. You are not allowed to speak ill about your benefactor and you should know your own status. However, the scholar didn’t learn his lesson, blinded by his hurt pride and the suffered humiliation. Therefore I predict that the scholar will remain unreformed, although he has already dropped his doctrine about homosexuality for good. Like I said before, his immorality and duplicity are becoming more visible. Yet, his arrogance, his stupidity and his selfishness will be the cause for his own downfall. Pangloss found a refuge thanks to Candide as the former never schemed against the naive protagonist, he was just a stupid scholar, victim of a false belief.

Nevertheless, I mentioned above that the Joseon scholar was a combination of Cunégonde and Pangloss. The reasons for this association are quite simple. Cunégonde represents Candide’s pure love, just like Jung In-Hun is the painter’s first love. Candide is blinded by her beauty and gentle manners hence he is not able to perceive her vanity and superficiality. Baek Na-Kyum was deceived by the teacher’s smiles and gentle manners too. If we pay attention to Cunégonde again, we remember that she is the one who caused the Candide’s departure from the castle as she seduced him. We have a similar situation in the manhwa. Baek Na-Kyum admires his teacher, has a chaste and pure love for him. However, the rejection incited him to drink and in his drunkenness, he dreamed of the teacher’s visit. He decided to confess his love which makes the painter declare his love to the wrong person. That’s how the original sin happens.

Besides, Cunégonde awaits a tragic path too. She gets raped the moment the castle is invaded by soldiers. At some point, she becomes a courtesan due to her beauty. She is not outraged and hurt by her situation. She actually enjoys it because she can enjoy luxury and comfort. We could say that she gets sponsored by men. However, her situation only lasts, until she loses her beauty for good. This explains why she is pungent at the end of the story. She never had a good disposition to begin with. If she had remained pretty, then she would have kept living as a mistress. Now, the manhwaphiles can already predict what I am about to say. I foresee that Jung In-Hun will resort to sex in order to advance his career. I had already explained this, when I compare him to “Bel-Ami”. Let’s not forget that he is not brilliant like I explained many times and it has already dawn on him that he could fail the civil service examination. Since Cunégonde gets raped, it could definitely happen to the low noble and the warning expressed by Yoon Seungho could perceived as a bad foreshadowing. Nevertheless, I must confess that I won’t feel pity for the scholar if this happens because he never comforted or helped the painter, when the forced sex happened and he witnessed it. Besides, I have already shown in different analyses that the low noble has started acting like a pimp and a whore. That’s why we could say that sex has now become a part of his life.

Now, the manhwaphiles are probably questioning where our favorite seme is in the philosophical tale. There is no character perfectly fitting to Yoon Seungho, yet I sense that to a certain extent, he has some similarities to Martin, an Anabaptist and a rich merchant. Martin represents the opposite of Pangloss. While the latter promotes optimism, the kind man is a partisan of pessimism. In his eyes, evil rules humankind hence he is so disillusioned about the world. His pessimistic nature is the reason why he overlooks goodness. Yoon Seungho is also disenchanted about the world and society due to his traumatic past, he had no real expectation before meeting the painter therefore he was living like a zombie. His passivity, reflected through his smoking, does somehow remind me of Martin’s attitude, although I have to say that Martin’s behavior diverges a little, the latter was not totally passive. He helped Candide and Pangloss with good intentions, yet he has the tendency to expect betrayal from anyone. And the source of their mistrust and negativity is their bad experiences. Both characters experienced betrayal and abandonment, therefore they have this negative attitude. Notice that the lord still refuses to meddle with politics and officials showing that he only sees government as a source of evil. This is normal, as he was used and betrayed by nobles. Just like Candide observed, having ambition is not source of happiness. Power can lead to misery as well. The French man witnessed the downfall of kings. Seungho thinks like Candide. However, the former is not able to realize the possibility what comes with a high post, he could change the situation of commoners, promote education among the low-born. It seems that Yoon Seungho’s wealth is also connected to trade as well, like he implied in the chapter 22. Martin never changes like Pangloss, however we know that this is not true for our beloved aristocrat.

Besides, I have more the impression that Yoon Seungho’s mentality embodies perfectly what Voltaire wanted to encourage. He arouses Baek Na-Kyum’s critical thinking, he admires the painter for his talent hence we could say that he advocates work. Notice that he is the one asking the artist to paint for him. He forced him to work again. Until their first meeting, the low-born had become a drunk and was not happy at all. So his social status as low-born was never a problem for the aristocrat because he recognized the painter’s real value. I would even add that he did admire the commoner for publishing erotic paintings and becoming successful. Baek Na-Kyum did want to change his situation through his talent and his passion. The seme doesn’t care about gossips, about social status and order society. In fact, he abhors nobility. Moreover, he is even willing to change his position and become the servant in his relationship with the painter. Finally, he isn’t averse to promote education for commoners which was detectable in the chapter 6, when he mocked the low noble


Finally, Yoon Seungho acts like Voltaire wished. He is a free thinker. Besides, the noble is someone pounding a lot, reflecting and learning from his experiences and mistakes thereby he is able to change little by little. At the end of the season, he is no longer the lord he was at the beginning. He has already softened and is able to accept reprimands, to listen to the artist’s grievances. He is less selfish, quite the opposite. That’s why I have to complain here. There are still many readers asking for a transformation and redemption of the noble implying that the aristocrat never changed. In my eyes, the metamorphosis has already started but is not completed. I’m going to repeat myself but my predictions are that the noble will become the painter’s teacher, will help him in his career and I sense that Yoon Seungho will be forced to change his attitude towards the government. He will be forced to meddle with politics because of his family and Jung In-Hun.

The real huge difference between both works is how the authors value love. For Voltaire, love is not so important, whereas Byeonduck shows that love can transform people, it can give hope and strength. Although there is a lot of sex in Painter Of The Night, love is not non-existent unlike in Candide, where it is more described as an illusion. Candide only marries Cunégonde because he feels obligated but he has no longer feelings for her because he is able to judge her true personality correctly. So the philosopher is diminishing the value of love because it is more connected to superficiality (physical attraction), false perception of the partner or ephemeral. However, I can not accept this description because love can be timeless as love can always change. Yoon Seungho is not just attracted by the painter’s appearances, he had already a huge admiration for the artist’s hands and talents. The more he interacts with him, the more he likes the low-born’s genuineness and honesty.

My final comparison is that both stories are showing the pursuit of happiness. Once, Yoon Seungho made love to the painter, he discovered something new and wanted to keep it. It has affected him so much to the point that he accepted to change. The painter will have to find a new goal in his life and his happiness is definitely connected to his talents and his relationship with the seme.

Feel free to comment. If you have any suggestion for topics or manhwas, feel free to ask. If you enjoy reading it, retweet it or push the button like. My tumblr/twitter account is: @bebebisous33. Thanks for reading and the support.

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