Painter Of The Night: “Crime and Punishment – part 3”

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.

In the first part, I mentioned that Yoon Seungho was a combination of Svidrigailov and Raskolnikov. In this essay, I’ll underline the parallels between the main leads from Painter Of The Night and Crime and Punishment in order to define Yoon Seungho’s future path. The affinities are not random, as both works are actually portraying a society shaken in the grip of decadency, injustice and misery.

Before starting the comparison, I need to introduce briefly Rodion Raskolnikov. He is a poor 23 years old student, who has a loving mother and sister by his side. Yet he had to drop his studies due to his financial struggles. The young man is unfortunately influenced by Nihilism, a mode of social criticism in Russia in the 19th century. This political doctrine didn’t acknowledge any constraint from society on the individual, refusing any religious, metaphysical, moral or political absolute. In other words, for Raskolnikov, he is neither bound by family, nor restrained by laws, social norms and faith. Hence he perceives himself as superhuman. This mentality leads him to plan the murder of a pawnbroker. With this crime, he wants to prove the veracity of his belief. He stands above society. However, what he never expected is the torments following the crime. His guilty conscience represents the center of Dostoevsky’s novel, showing there exists another form of punishment, the stress, doubts and anxiety of trying to avoid punishment and later his remorse.

Due to his crime, he alienates himself more and more from others to the point that he finds his actual situation unbearable. This makes him realize the emptiness of his belief and his actual true condition: he is a human after all and no superhuman. The torments of his guilty conscience pushes him to confess his crime to Sonya, a prostitute. He imagines that their situation is similar, because as a whore, she lives on the margins of society too. She would stand below society, while he would stand above it. However, he recognizes his mistake, since she is sacrificing herself for her family. So her so-called sin, a symbol for selflessness, stands in opposition to Raskolnikov’s, the climax of selfishness. But thanks to Sonya’s love and support, he decides to confess to the authorities and with time he comes to accept himself as a man. In fact, only Sonya’s love was able to move the protagonist to drop his contempt for humanity. We could say that the superman transforms into a human, recognizing his true condition: full of flaws and in no way extraordinary, compared to others. Simultaneously, he becomes more humble and caring.

His condition as superhuman explains why first Rodion pushes away anyone trying to help him to the point, he ends up completely alienated from society. The start of his growing isolation is the result of his pride and intellectualism. The young man considers himself superior to others, so that he can not relate to anyone. Because of this mentality, he views people as tools and uses them for his own interests. He is cold and detached, since he differentiates people into “ordinary” and “extraordinary” which legitimates him to judge them if they are valuable or not for society. Because the pawnbroker abuses her position to let people suffer, Rodion Raskolnikov decides to eliminate her. He justifies his murder as an utilitarian act, he helped society to get rid of someone with no value and utility. Yet, Sonya as his “teacher”, forces the main lead to question his nihilistic belief in the end.

As a conclusion, the Russian protagonist has the impression that he is very different from others, he stands above everyone because of his intelligence and his belief. But at the end, he is forced to drop his doctrine and is transformed into a human, able to love and admit his wrongdoings. He rediscovers his humanity and as such he loses his arrogance.

Striking is that his portray is very similar to Yoon Seungho’s. Both are anti-heroes because of their actions. While the Joseon version commits rape and kills a servant without blinking an eye, the other murders a pawnbroker by justifying it as an utilitarian act. Because Rodion Raskolnikov didn’t expect the presence of a witness, he is forced to assassinate the sister. The student is even brutal in the way he kills the two women: they are both cut by a axe. The protagonists’ wrongdoings symbolize the epitome of selfishness and violence and both legitimate their actions with a reason. In Yoon Seungho’s case, killing the servant was to demonstrate his power demanding respect as he had been lied to. He could do so because as a lord he had the right to decide about his servant’s fate. Then concerning the rape, Yoon Seungho imagined that if they had sex again, the painter would submit himself and acknowledge his superiority. As you can observe, both wrongdoings are related to power and superiority, very similar to Rodion’s philosophy. However, there is a huge difference. Yoon Seungho is entitled to think so because of his actual social position. He stands indeed above others due to his family’s origins and his wealth, whereas the Russian main character is just an impoverished student, who considers himself superior due to his intelligence and skills. Nonetheless they are quite similar in their mentality. Since the Russian student considers himself as superhuman, it means, he is closer to a god than to “normal, mortal” humans. And now, if you focus on the main character from Joseon, you’ll detect a parallel. In the beginning, the lord considers himself as a spirit hence he lives detached from others. This signifies that he doesn’t acknowledge the existence of his body. Since he is only living through his mind, his body is only a tool to defeat his enemies. That’s why he is so cold, distant and indifferent towards others which reminds us of Rodion’s personality. One is a superhuman and the other a spirit, hence they feel so superior to others. Furthermore, the lord was also influenced by his intellectualism. Since he had read so many books, he had the impression, his immense knowledge was surpassing all the other nobles. However, the irony was that he could never show his education and his free spirit as he was totally alienated from society. And his isolation is also visible in the manhwa.

What caught my attention is that he seldom leaves his mansion and if he does, it is always related to Baek Na-Kyum. The latter forced to change his habits. He had to go to a tavern (chapter 1), then he visited his friend Jihwa at dawn (chapter 3) or visited the low noble Jung In-Hun and later strolled through downtown with Baek Na-Kyum (chapter 40 and chapter 45) As you can observe, the painter is the one, who puts an end to his alienation from society, although the lord is not aware of this. We have to question ourselves if the hunts are not the result of Baek Na-Kyum’s positive influence on Yoon Seungho too. It is definitely possible that the latter felt the need to hunt because he was so happy after having experienced their “Wedding night” (chapter 21) and sharing his bed with the artist for the first time (chapter 38).

And now, if we look at the reasons why the protagonist hired the artist in first place, the manhwaphiles realize that it is connected to his unconscious but also to his conscious. In the first case, his gaze and heart were moved by the warmth and love exuding from the images. In the second case, the master wanted to have his victories immortalized. Moreover, the paintings would serve as a proof of his own existence as a spirit. Finally, he couldn’t bear the thought that he could never get new paintings, he needed stronger stimuli. That’s why he told to Baek Na-Kyum in chapter 55 . Note the similarity with Rodion’s thinking. The low-born’s function was first defined by his utility. Yoon Seungho desired to use him as his new toy in order to entertain himself. Striking is that even the words outline the lord’s loneliness and burden. He wasn’t happy at all, he needed distraction. Therefore, I perceive, Yoon Seungho’s brutal honesty as a proof of his own overestimation. He considered himself so superior and level-headed, while in reality he was deeply hurt and isolated. He was deceiving himself. Besides, he could never show his education to others which explains why his own image diverges so much to the one Jihwa and the others have about him. He never recognized the real nature and consequences of his actions. For him, he was just focused on fighting the nobles, while for others, it looks like he was obsessed with sex. Yet we all know that he never felt sexual pleasure before seeing his first portray with his sex partner. What caught my attention here is that the lord doesn’t even acknowledge the artist as human, he is a toy. He has neither rights nor feelings. And this cold and detached judgement corresponds to the lord’s mentality from back then. He was just a ghost hence he didn’t need to pay attention to others and their feelings. They were just tools for his own interests.

Just like Rodion who saw himself as a superhuman in the beginning and accepted his true condition at the end (being a normal man), I see a similar evolution here. Little by little, the noble is transforming into a human. He is slowly dropping his doctrines and belief one by one:

  1. It started with the liberation of his body, the lord realized that with his body he could feel pleasure. Everything is related to his self-hatred. Thanks to Baek Na-Kyum’s picture, the lord was able to perceive a different image of himself. His gaze, as a mirror of his soul, revealed attraction and beauty. In my opinion, Yoon Seungho stands in opposition to Raskolnikov here, because the latter never hated himself in the first place. In fact, we have a reversed situation. Rodion comes to hate himself with the mental torture and the realization of his wrongdoings and true personality. Yet, just like with the noble from Joseon, the main lead from Crime and Punishment comes to accept himself again thanks to Sonya’s love.
  2. Then when the aristocrat tasted the painter for the first time, he experienced love and warmth for the first time as well. He met someone who could love someone else spiritually. Secondly, the main lead discovered sensuality too. That’s why he was no longer interested in having sex with other nobles and was waiting for a renewal of this wonderful encounter. In that moment, the master’s heart was determined to gain the artist’s love, while he was thinking that he was just asking for a spiritual love through a lovely gaze. However, the main lead believed that his decision had been made by his mind. He rationalized and justified each action rationally, until he was confronted with reality.
  3. In that moment, he could no longer repress his emotions, which he had been numbing all this time with the wine and smoke. The rejection reminded him of his traumatic past hence he couldn’t control his outburst. He felt helpless, angered and painted therefore he couldn’t decide rationally. He acted on impulses. Yet this terrible experience made him realize at the same time that he was powerless. Neither his force nor his caring side (he brings his own robe himself) could move the painter’s heart. And if you observe the lord’s behavior, you’ll notice how he makes decisions more and more on affect (from chapter 25 to chapter 33). His emotions are clouding more and more his judgement. It was, as if his heart was taking possession of his mind or his mind was put off. Nonetheless, the readers observe the return of his rationality, which is linked to his huge pangs of conscience. Because of the painter’s sickness, he was faced with the painter’s fragile constitution. Since he was a spirit, he hadn’t taken into consideration the painter’s true condition. The latter was a human and could die. That’s why the lord felt such huge pangs of conscience. Reality was showing him that his dream (spiritual love) was just an illusion. And his remorse and guilt remind us of Rodion, this is his actual punishment. He is forced to change in the end, although he is not really realizing the gradual metamorphosis. That’s why he had sex with nobles again. He imagined that since it was just an illusion, he could return to the way he lived before. However, he was wrong. Notice that between the chapter 33 and 34, we observe the return of Yoon Seungho’s rationality. Once separated from the painter, he realized Baek Na-Kyum’s importance in his life due to Min’s challenge. What caught my attention is the words he said to Min. He declared the painter his possession (“what’s mine”). Yet, this time the lord was seeing the commoner more than just an object, he was his servant. Like I explained in the first part, Yoon Seungho didn’t realize, he was considering him as a servant. His unconscious and heart desired him to be a free man, while his mind was treating him as a domestic. During this evolution, we have to keep in mind that the lord was still denying the existence of his body. That’s why he had problems to comprehend his negative feelings (f. ex. chapter 27), he was unable to distinguish his mind from his heart and couldn’t discern the contradiction between his words and actions. Therefore I come to the conclusion, the lord was still living like a spirit in chapter 48 and could only be offended by the painter’s words: “He is a man consumed by sex”. In his eyes, he was never a man but a ghost. All this time, I had imagined, he was only bothered by the expression “consumed by sex”. However, I perceived it a differently now. He was annoyed too that he was perceived as a human.
  4. However, it changed the moment, the painter decided to accept him as his sexual partner. In that moment, the noble was cornered. If he couldn’t share his mind with the painter, then at least they could connect physically. Back then, I considered this decision as the following: he was lowering his expectations. He was giving up on the painter’s heart, which is only partially correct. In my opinion, this choice was actually important, since it meant that the lord was accepting the existence of his body. He was renouncing on his identity as a spirit. Soul and body were now together. He was becoming a human. Furthermore, it also signified that he was no longer forcing the painter to become a spirit (“share their mind”). He had imagined that if he was gazed by Baek Na-Kyum, like he desired, then the artist would recognize his spirituality and the existence of his good and impressive “soul”. However, this didn’t work like he had anticipated, because the next morning he was told that the artist viewed himself as a prostitute. So now he was trapped in his new body but couldn’t even connect physically with the painter. That’s why he had a relapse but this time, it was different. He needed to numb his body, as he desired the painter so much but he couldn’t even touch him. That’s why he had no sex with nobles, but consumed drugs. What caught my attention in this scene is the absence of Seungho’s response to Min’s questioning and mocking. It was, as if his body was present and his mind elsewhere. From my perspective, this symbolizes that the mind and the body are still separated from each other, mirroring the struggle between the conscious and unconscious. This signification explicates why the noble behaved so differently. In one moment, he was cold and detached, willing to offer the painter to his guests, although he was infuriated, and the next moment, he was protecting him from the vicious servant. Yet, the result of his bad decision was caused by the dichotomy between mind and body. The noble might have acknowledged the existence of his body but he was still denying the existence of his heart. If he had feelings for the painter, then this meant that he was a human after all.
  5. That’s why the moment he recognized his huge mistake in chapter 54, he decided to give up on the painter. He was finally accepting his condition as a human. No man would ever love someone like him. He was selfish, brutal and very emotional, putting the blame on the painter. His reasoning was so that the commoner would run away. As you can see, I consider the first love confession of the master as the end of the separation of body and mind. The lord has finally accepted his condition: he is a man made of flesh and blood with a soul. However, he still considers himself as a noble, something he has internalized due to his father’s principles. So from a spirit to a ghost inhabiting a body to a noble, the lord’s condition has changed a lot. However, his transformation is not complete.
  6. But since he considers himself as a noble, the status of Baek Na-Kyum hasn’t changed yet. He is still viewed as a servant. That’s why he imagined that the artist had remained by his side out of duty. And now the chapter 58 marked another turning point, the lord was finally giving up on the following doctrine. He admitted his defeat, the painter had won the battle and the lord was no longer a victorious champion. The artist was so powerful that his master became a wreck. However, note that the notion of battle has not entirely vanished, the struggle is still present. He is willing to love the painter selflessly, but he expects respect for his gestures. And now, imagine how he must have felt, when he is told that the painter escaped and was even suicidal, since he abandoned the warm clothes. Yoon Seungho had the impression that he had been rejected again. That’s why he was on the verge of killing Baek Na-Kyum and himself. He had the impression, all his changes had brought nothing. It was, as if it was never enough. So he sent the painter to the storage room and chose to calm down. Notice that his emotional outburst is quite controlled and short-lived, compared to the first explosion of negative emotions (chapter 25). Only one word can bring him back to reality. This shows that little by little, the lord is learning how to control his heart and find the right balance between his mind and his heart. When he starts smoking again, he is trying to dominate his urges. However, let’s not forget that he gave his robe to the painter, revealing that his love for the painter is still intact. What caught my attention is that he is not running away either or trying to numb his pain with drugs. He seems more collected. And since his mind was in the second part of the series more clouded than before, I believe that we will see a different master in the next chapter. He won’t react like in chapter 26, when he couldn’t even handle a small gesture of refusal. . As you could observe, the rebirth of the phoenix hasn’t occurred yet. The lord is slowly accepting his condition as human, seeking for love and companionship. Just like Rodion who could change for the better, the main lead is transformed thanks to the painter. Only he could transcend the protagonist’s philosophy, his contempt for humanity. Baek Na-Kyum ignites the lord’s desire to live normally and to show his true side: he is in fact caring and sensitive. Yet, the lord has still a lot to learn: he needs to give up on their master-servant relationship. In fact, I have the impression, he is using it now, because if he didn’t, he would have no connection with the artist in his mind. What he hasn’t realized yet is the change of the artist’s gaze. Since the painter is rejecting him, he can only act as his lord. That way, the painter can’t cut ties with him entirely. However, this situation puts the noble in a difficult situation: if he loves him, why would he punish him like that? If he loves him why would he treat him like a servant? I am expecting a good outcome in the next chapter. Both sides will be forced to define the true nature of their relationship. Nonetheless, there’s no doubt for me that Yoon Seungho will renounce on his title at some point. So if he spends the night in a storage room, we could interpret it as a symbol of his renunciation and humbleness. His desire to stay by his lover’s side is stronger than his pride and his principle taught by his father. The end of his journey will be, when he has found the right balance between his mind and heart. He will become a real man, a human full of knowledge and positive emotions. This signifies, he will be at peace with himself. However, as long as this metamorphosis continues, the lord’s mind and heart will be too busy to focus on his enemies. As a conclusion, Yoon Seungho’s path is resembling Rodion’s, both are characters destined to recognize and accept their humanity thanks to the support of the love of their life.  

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 tumblr-twitter account is: @bebebisous33. Thanks for reading and the support.

3 thoughts on “Painter Of The Night: “Crime and Punishment – part 3”

  1. Yes but Dostoyevsky showed that you can free yourself and redeem yourself thanks to punishment. It’s an important, cathartic process.

    Even the title “Crime and PUNISHMENT” show us the importance of the lesson called punishment.


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