This is where you can read the manhwa. https://www.lezhinus.com/en/comic/painter But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes. If you want to read more essays, here is the link to the table of contents: https://bebebisous33analyses.wordpress.com/2020/07/04/table-of-contents-painter-of-the-night/
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After reading the chapter 49, I was happy to have released my last analysis “Yoon Seungho’s long fight and struggle” (part 1/2) just before the new chapter for two reasons. First, my observations and even my predictions were point on. Secondly, it was indeed important to list the laws set by Jung In-Hun because without them, the readers can’t understand the chapter 49 and perceive the huge progression Baek Na-Kyum is making here. Therefore I am mentioning the regulations one more time as I will refer to them later in this essay:
- The artist can’t be associated to sodomy.
- He is not allowed to paint erotic paintings.
- He can’t admit to be a homosexual.
- He isn’t permitted to have sex with a man.
- He is not allowed to concede that he feels pleasure, when he has an intercourse with a man.
- He is not authorized to question the teacher’s words and actions. He has to obey him blindly.
- He is not permitted to fall in love with another man.
Besides, the chapter 49 confirms that Yoon Seungho’s words and actions in the chapter 48 were motivated by his desire to provoke a reaction in the painter. He wanted him to drop his stuporous state. He had no own will, he was just determined to please the master, whom he still considered as a man driven by his libido. (chapter 48) The noble had noticed that the artist was blind and deaf hence he needed to use the low-born’s body to awake his senses and arouse the painter’s instincts. That’s why he licked the painter’s ears while whispering, (chapter 49) or pinched his nipples. At no moment, the protagonist let his emotions (anger, frustration) take control over the situation. That’s why we definitely can’t say that we have another rape in the chamber. First, since “Baek Na-Kyum is a whore” (in the painter’s mind), then the lord can do anything he wants. The noble’s reasoning is quite simple: “Because the commoner is acting, then I should act too”. Secondly, the noble is trying to discover the root of the problem (chapter 49), while at the pavilion, he thought that if he forced himself on the painter, he would achieve what he wanted: being recognized as the painter’s partner and husband. From my point of view, we can observe the master of deception in action in this scene. He is using his body as a tool, just like in the past, when he had a sex session with the nobles. However, his goal concerning Baek Na-Kyum is different. This is not to defeat his counterpart. Inflicting pain is just his way to get through the painter’s mind and body. In fact, his goal hasn’t changed at all since the chapter 23. He is still hoping to be loved by the painter but right now, his immediate purpose is to discover the truth. Pay attention to the seme’s face in the illustration above. He knows that he is inflicting pain on the painter hence he is hurt as well. The manhwalovers can perceive the noble’s true face. That’s why I called Seungho as the master of deception. In the image above, the artist can’t see the noble’s true emotions and personality. Our seme feels, he has no other option left as the painter is living like a robot, or better said, a robot prostitute. This contrasts so much to the scene at the pavilion where his selfish desires and negative emotions led him to wound the man. From my perspective, Yoon Seungho is actually selfless here, he is doing it for the artist’s sake. He prefers being hated than getting unnoticed or objectized as an image: Seungho is a man consumed by lust. As a conclusion, Seungho is taking the bull by the horns, willing to get hurt and even hated in the process. The painter needs to answer his question:
Why did he change so much to the point that Baek Na-Kyum was just a shadow of himself?
Let’s not forget that the courageous aristocrat is well aware that Jung In-Hun is behind this but he doesn’t know how. (chapter 48) Did the scholar request the painter to sleep with him in order to discover a weakness? Sure, Baek Na-Kyum said that he was doing it on his own free will, yet his reactions led the lord think otherwise hence he couldn’t lower his guard entirely.
Yoon Seungho is taking some risk here because the painter could resent him for his rough manners. First, he points out the contradiction between his past comment and his actual behavior. He acted as a prostitute, then he should keep acting as such. (chapter 49) He triggers him with his comments and actions, yet he is determined to make sure that once the artist reaches the breaking point, he will stop. That’s why the noble doesn’t listen to the painter’s complaints(chapter 49), until Baek Na-Kyum yells to his lover and starts crying for real. Notice that in the drawing above, the artist expresses his own thoughts and desires for the first time. What caught my attention is that in this drawing, Baek Na-Kyum is speaking without a pause, unlike in the past where he is not even using the pronoun “I” or “me”: (chapter 45). My interpretation is that in that situation, the painter was only perceiving himself as an object. Sure, right after he admitted that he was feeling something. (chapter 45) But the emotions were quite superficial, he had great difficulties to externalize these. While the pronoun “I” was only used for the first time for a short moment, there was still the presence of an object in his confession. In other words, he was still denying the existence of two naked bodies till the chapter 49. Either he was an object (“it feels nice”) or the lord was one (“I like it”). Hence the lord’s remark was so point on: (chapter 48) First, he had misunderstood the confession, yet at some point he perceived his “confessions” for its real value: the presence of an object in his expressions. (chapter 49) Nonetheless, in this scene the painter keeps speaking about himself as he uses the pronoun “I” 9 times, until he is hugged.
The expression “I don’t like it” said in one sentence without any break outlines the effect of the master’s actions. Once cornered, Baek Na-Kyum is forced to externalize his own emotions and thoughts.
He has a body, he believes that his body has reached its limits. So in the image above, he is recognizing the existence of his body. First, we have the admission that he was a person on his own: “I don’t like it”. I couldn’t help myself connecting these words to the quote “I think, therefore I am”, a famous principle developed by the French Philosopher Descartes. Now he is conceding that he has a body on his own: “I can’t”. I see a progression here following the theory developed by Descartes, but the other way around. The French Philosopher used the body as a proof to doubt the existence of the human being/conscious. He used the ghost pain as proof that the body couldn’t be perceived as a proof of the existence. [a ghost pain: an amputated person feels some pain in the missing part] However, the French scientist came to the belief that the existence of the thought is a validation of the existence of the self, the “I” (“Cogito ergo sum”, the expression in Latin).
Consequently, with his words, the artist is slowly validating his own existence: first he has his own thoughts (“I don’t like it”), then he recognizes the presence of his body (“I can’t”). He is a person on his own, neither an object nor a prostitute. He has his own identity.
While during all this time, Yoon Seungho is not listening to the painter’s complains, he keeps reminding the painter that he is doing it for one reason: WHY? Striking is the difference in the writing in the speech bubbles reflecting the tone of the voice.
Notice the progression: Baek Na-Kyum’s voice is getting louder. From “I don’t like it” and “I can’t” to “NO, PLEASE…… I’M GONNA-“, the readers can sense the raising of the painter’s voice to a scream. His yelling announces his outburst. (chapter 49)
Due to the picture above, you might argue that the sentences are broken again but this time, I interpret it differently. His emotions are the cause for the broken sentences. He can’t speak properly because of the explosion of his genuine feelings. His mind and heart are no longer frozen. Furthermore, he is criticizing the noble but the latter doesn’t mind it, as it was his real goal all this time. He wanted the painter to reconnect with his body and rediscover his true emotions and thoughts.
Another difference is his gesture. He is closing his eyes while crying, turning his face away from Yoon Seungho and even hiding his tears with his arm, which he never did in the past. Compare the drawing above with the following. (chapter 42)
In the chapter 42, he was looking at the lord with his eyes wide open. There is no arm in the way either. The contrast is really telling, displaying that despite the presence of Yoon Seungho, the artist was not able to perceive the noble’s proximity. This confirms my earlier statement: the painter was blind and deaf and it started in the chapter 42 hence he begged the lord to push harder and deeper as he felt nothing at all. In the retrospective, we could say that we were witnessing Baek Na-Kyum’s slow withering in the chapter 42, or more precisely, the beginning of his winter rigidity (like the frogs). However, I would like to outline that the embrace in the chapter 42 did move the artist’s heart and didn’t get unnoticed. He felt the warmth and love hence he was able to remember his hug and kiss, when he was masturbating. (chapter 42)
But now let’s go back to this scene:
He is doing the exact opposite of the way he behaved in the chapter 42. My explication for the huge contrast is the following. First, Baek Na-Kyum is finally sensing the lord’s presence. All his senses are back, fully awaken. Besides, he is revealing himself. All his emotions and thoughts are real and genuine. But since he is so vulnerable, he is scared to show his true personality. Furthermore, he must have remembered the lord’s words (from the chapter 42), the master could complain again. (chapter 49) However, nothing happens. Yoon Seungho allows the artist to cry and to voice his thoughts for it was exactly what the lord was aiming at. For the first time, he did succeed. This is the reason why I choose this drawing as the illustration for this essay. The lord’s acting did ignite a fire in Baek Na-Kyum. The master destroyed the image Baek Na-Kyum had about himself, being a prostitute, because he expressed his own emotions and thoughts. Therefore I state that Yoon Seungho has liberated the painter from his cage or better said, his frozen state. With his voice and gestures, Baek Na-Kyum is proving that he is existing, he’s a full-fledged person with feelings and thoughts. Simultaneously, he is confessing that he is existing.
This marks a pivotal moment in the painter’s life because so far, he was living under the teacher’s doctrine. He had been submitted to an indoctrination, which is often utilized by dictators. You know that under dictatorships, people are not perceived as persons on their own. The citizens living under a dictator are either numbers or enemies or pawns or objects, they are never recognized as human beings. Due to Jung In-Hun’s coercive persuasion, a method employed in dictatorships, and his doctrine, Baek Na-Kyum was never able to live his life like he wanted. The scholar robbed him all his human rights. The painter had to follow the rules that’s why he got punished by the scholar in the chapter 40. He was questioning the scholar’s actions and power. Hence my claim that Baek Na-Kyum’s love for the scholar was never a real “love” is here confirmed. I’ll go as far as to compare Baek Na-Kyum’s love to a “ruler’s cult” which is another feature for a dictatorship.
Consequently, I compare Jung In-Hun to a dictator on a small scale. Until now, he could only impress the commoners (the head gisaeng, Baek Na-Kyum, the craftsman) but if he gets a high position, he will impose his doctrines on the officials and the nobles, there is no doubt about it. And just like any dictator, Jung In-Hun is delusional and resents people, even his followers. As you know, I am a History teacher in Germany, that’s why I am using Hitler as example. Hitler said that if the Aryans (pure-blooded Germans) were not able to win, then they should all die. This shows that this megalomaniac man never liked Germans in reality. All his doctrine was based on hatred, jealousy and cold-hearted reasoning: “Since The Jews are responsible for our misery and they are just parasites, then they should just be eliminated. They are no human beings, just bugs”. You might now wonder if I’m not drifting away from the topic. I am describing Hitler and the IIIrd. Reich for one reason. Jung In-Hun’s ideology and mentality is really similar to the nazi ideology. For Jung In-Hun, homosexuals are parasites, they are just prostitutes hence they can be destroyed. He has always hated Baek Na-Kyum because the latter was popular among nobles, while he was not noticed with his poetry. Hitler tried to become recognized as a painter but failed, hence he resented more the painters and Jews. The painting about Jung In-Hun’s inauguration could be compared to a propaganda poster. (chapter 41) In other words, I see a lot of common points between Jung In-Hun and modern dictators like Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini. We have the following common denominators:
- A doctrine based on hatred: here sodomy is rejected and should be erased.
- That’s why we have a censorship. Jung In-Hun stopped the publications of erotic paintings. Under Hitler, there was no freedom of expression and press. Jung In-Hun even imposed his language on the painter, it was the same under Hitler’s ruling.
- The use of coercive persuasion: Hitler used school and youth organizations like “Hitler Jugend” (Hitler youth) to indoctrinate his future followers and soldiers. Striking is that the teacher did something similar, he used the school to lure the painter and his students. Remember the girl with the leaf. Furthermore, Hitler wanted the students to become “predators” and to limit the students’ abilities. In reality, for him, it would have been the best, if the children were just able to read the orders and that was it.
- In a dictatorship, there is a harsh punishment if the subject questions the ruler. Jung In-Hun punished the painter in the chapter 40, he made sure that Baek Na-Kyum would never voice his own thoughts and feelings. By turning him into a prostitute, he was somehow declared an enemy, someone who derogates from his regulations.
- We have a “ruler’s cult” and a propaganda poster with the painter’s image. Notice that in this drawing, the scholar was put on a pedestal and all the people around him were so small and little. They had no face. It was as if Jung In-Hun was “the ultimate instance”, the new/fake sun and people have to bow down to him.
Now, you understand why I am comparing Jung In-Hun to Hitler. The moment Baek Na-Kyum claims that he is a full-pledged person, he is actually abandoning the scholar’s doctrine. He is no longer a subject, a prostitute because he is no longer following the scholar’s laws. In other words, the coercive persuasion is no longer effective. Now, he is using his own mind for real. We could already catch some glimpses of the painter’s critical thinking in the second season, like when he wondered about the cause of his ejaculation and why he kept thinking about Yoon Seungho. He is no longer living under the shadow of the false sun. This explains why Baek Na-Kyum can’t help thinking about the scholar’s hug, when he is embraced by Yoon Seungho. (chapter 49) (chapter 29) While some people judged it as something negative, I viewed it in a positive way. First, this flashback shows that the painter is thinking on his own. Secondly, he gets aware that the teacher’s hug was fake. He realizes the contradiction between the hug and the words said in the chapter 40: “He was born to be a prostitute”. “If so, why did he hug me back then?” From that thought, Baek Na-Kyum comes to the right conclusion. Jung In-Hun was not sincere and he is finally able to perceive the true nature of his learned sir: a hypocrite, though he doesn’t voice it. This is definitely relevant, this illustrates that Baek Na-Kyum is abandoning the scholar’s doctrine for real. He questions the teacher’s power and control and criticizes him for his dishonesty and duplicity. Since I stated that the rule 6 was central, this means that all the rules become obsolete as well. Baek Na-Kyum decides to live like he wants. And unaware of this, the lord makes the same decision. (chapter 49)
During that night, both come to the same conclusion, hence they are getting closer to each other. Baek Na-Kyum is taking his fate into his own hand and doesn’t want to rely on anyone else, even Yoon Seungho. Yoon Seungho’s fans might get upset as our main character is not getting what he wants. However, we shouldn’t forget three aspects:
- Yoon Seungho was willing to risk his relationship in the first place, when he provoked the painter. He had already envisaged to be hated but notice that this is not what is happening. Baek Na-Kyum is not rejecting the noble at all.
2. In order to love the noble, the painter needs to love himself first. Since he has just started living as a real human being, it is impossible to expect that he can reciprocate the noble’s feelings. But in my opinion, he is already in love with the aristocrat but he has no idea about it. [I’ll explain it further in the second part]
3. With his confession, he is admitting that he is a homosexual and that he tried to repress his sexual desires in the past (“despite myself”) but won’t do that any longer. This means that he will paint again. He won’t repress his unconscious, but will allow it to express itself in his paintings. In other words, his real passion and talents will come back with full power. The future drawings won’t be like the last one, an unrefined or unfinished painting full of mistakes, which was a proof of his frozen state and lack of passion. This confession reveals the determination and the return of the painter’s confidence.
As for Yoon Seungho, the latter chooses to live the way he desires. On the other side, he is lowering his expectations. Simultaneously, he is also trying to live his life the way he desires. This signifies that he is no longer taking people’s opinion into consideration. This is important, for Now, you might ask, where I see a return of the artist’s confidence. Pay attention to the pronouns used in the confession. He is using in each sentence “Me, my, myself and finally I”, while he wasn’t able to speak about himself in the past. With the repetition of these pronouns, he shows that he is existing, but unlike in the confession from the chapter 20, he shows no love for the lord. If someone has to show his adoration and affection for the other, then it should be the lord and not the painter. That’s why the lord is the subject in the confession and not the object (“You press, You bite, You kiss, …”). The artist loved someone in the past (“I have always respected and admired you”, “I pin for you”), yet the result was that he got deceived and betrayed. Imagine, he could have never confessed in reality because for the low aristocrat, he was just a nobody. Here, the artist is definitely taking the lead in his speech and in his action. But he has a reason to do so. He is protecting himself from another betrayal, a possible heartbreak. (chapter 49) He has suffered a lot and he fears to mistake the warmth from the protagonist as something real, whereas it could be fake too. That’s why Yoon Seungho can’t be pleased with this confession. He has to hear that he won’t be loved, that their relationship is only physical, he can’t expect more. Therefore Seungho gets upset and is about to complain, when he hears “I feel good”. Remember that I had explained that their position had been switched from the chapter 36 on. The noble had lowered himself and become a servant in order to get accepted. Now, with this confession, the painter is accepting the noble as his servant and he will be the master. No wonder that the seme is bothered first because this was not his true goal in reality. But when the commoner kisses the lord, Yoon Seungho’s negative feelings disappear. (chapter 49) Why? The lord senses that there are feelings here. For the second time, Baek Na-Kyum takes the initiative. This time, the confession, the caress and the kiss are directed at the noble. Besides, the artist shows that despite their new defined relationship, Baek Na-Kyum is genuine. This is not a real master-servant relationship, as there is some warmth in his gestures despite his words.
So when the lord is talking to himself, the painter has the exact same thoughts. That’s why the readers, including myself, were so confused. Who was thinking like that? Yoon Seungho or Baek Na-Kyum? Here, it was the noble, yet the painter had the same mind-set. Don’t forget that the painter serves as a mirror in the story, so he had the same thoughts. This explicates why he admitted his sensuality in front of his lover. And the noble understood the message. We should remember that Yoon Seungho is really perceptive (see the chapter 47) and can read the artist pretty well. There is no deception in reality. The painter is just lying to himself that he has no feelings for Yoon Seungho, yet the kiss and the stroke did contradict his words. Yoon Seungho sensed it. That’s the reason why Baek Na-Kyum is no longer acting as a prostitute. We have to imagine that if the lord came to abandon him, then in his mind, he won’t be affected. He will do what he wants in his life. He will paint again because his body and his talents are strongly connected to each other. (chapter 49)
As a final comment, I’ll explain the lord’s following comment (chapter 49) which is strongly connected to Baek Na-Kyum’s confessions. Let me summarize all his confessions:
- He’s a person of his own which means that he won’t follow any order or ruling. Since his words imply that he is a master, this signifies that he doesn’t belong to anyone.
- He is admitting his homosexuality for good.
- He is conceding that he has always felt attracted to the noble.
- He is acknowledging that he feels pleasure, when they have sex together.
- He is recognizing Seungho as his partner.
- He won’t feel shame any longer. “When you lick my body… I also feel good” which is similar to “I’ve decided let my body take the lead”. Why should he feel embarrassed and blush? He will just follow his physical desires. (chapter 39) So he won’t react like in the past, hide his special relationship with the lord. He won’t show any fear, when it comes to gossip or judgement from others. Why should he feel ashamed? This is something natural, which means that the next time Deok Jae calls him (chapter 47), he will be able to reply.
To all these confessions, the lord responds with a similar confession. (chapter 49) He understood the painter’s words and there is a certain resignation in him. He also makes up his mind that there are just sex partners and nothing more. His decision mirrors the painter’s confessions. He has also got aware that the painter is not willing to open his heart. However, what caught my attention here is the word “mind”. All this time, the noble imagined, he desired that the painter revealed his thoughts, while in reality, he was aiming at the artist’s heart. The lord has not realized that what has moved him all along was his own heart and not his mind. I have the impression that Yoon Seungho explained his love with his mind. He couldn’t recognize love, since all his thoughts were revolving around the painter. The painter was in his mind, he wanted to know what the artist thought, unaware that his heart was the trigger for his thoughts, and not his mind. He explained everything with his mind, therefore only valet Kim and Min were able to perceive his true motivation. We have to envisage that the lord has never experienced love before. So in this moment, he is taking his distance from the painter. He will act like in the past: he is just following the reaction of his body.
On the other hand, due to all these confessions, the readers witnesse Baek Na-Kyum’s transformation. He is accepting his homosexuality and his physical relationship with Yoon Seungho. He has no problem to admit that he enjoys their physical interactions and he will now follow the reaction of his body. All this indicates he has regained some pride. That’s why I am declaring that the commoner doesn’t act and perceive himself as a prostitute any longer as having sex means work and not pleasure. Now, you understand why I liked this chapter very much. Baek Na-Kyum reveals his real strength, he has almost returned to his older self. Like I had described him in my first analysis (Baek Na-Kyum and Seungho: a comparison), Baek Na-Kyum has always accepted his homosexuality as something positive and natural, until he met the terrible scholar and in chapter 49, we can witness it. With his confessions, he is rejecting all the rules set by Jung In-Hun, one by one. He is dropping Jung In-Hun’s belief for good.
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