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/
As painful as the chapter 64 was, it revealed a lot about Kim’s personality and his relationship with Yoon Seungho. Therefore I decided to focus on the butler. On the other hand, this is not the first analysis I wrote about him. So far, I had described him as the helping hand and the best man. Then in other essays, I had compared him to a dog, to a matchmaker or even to a surrogate father. But who is he really, and more precisely, what is the true nature of his relationship with the lord?
In order to answer this question, it is important to gather all the info we have about him. Valet Kim is the servant who served the main lead since the latter was a young teenager. This means, he saw the sensitive and intelligent boy growing up into adulthood. (chapter 57) And if we look at the picture, the manhwaphiles can detect that Kim seemed to have the teenager’s trust. This is visible thanks to the domestic and Yoon Seungho’s gestures. They are talking to each other in a very natural way. We can conclude that they were close, especially if I include this panel in my examination. (chapter 57) The way the boy is looking up at Kim indicates that the main character is quite attached to him. And because of this scene, the manhwaworms could sense the domestic’s qualities: care, trust, affection and loyalty. But what many readers failed to realize is that servant Kim is actually following father Yoon in reality. This means that the elder master trusts this domestic. The latter is even the one who introduced the physician to the lord of the mansion. (chapter 57) That’s why I come to the conclusion that the butler Kim was in fact loyal to the elder master and not to Yoon Seungho. He might have had an affection for the teenager, yet in truth he serves the head of the family. And notice that valet Kim is still giving the expensive medicine to the protagonist, although this was ordered by father Yoon. (chapter 57) But more importantly, the manhwaphiles should question themselves about the nature of this medicine. It is a drug to mess up with the main lead’s health? And this clue reveals that Kim is not working for Yoon Seungho. One might argue that Kim is just following father Yoon’s orders, but the latter lives so far away, hence the eldest master has no control to threaten the butler. Hence Kim could have stopped feeding the medicine, especially after knowing how father Yoon treated the son. In other words, it looks like his loyalty to father Yoon is still intact. This is palpable in two occasions. (chapter 35) In this scene, the valet gives an order to his master and not an advice, since he employs the verb “must”. Why? Because he thinks, the letter was sent by the elder master. And Yoon Seung-Won knew that Kim was loyal to their father. Hence when he sent the letter, he used his father’s name and authority, but in order to maintain the illusion that father Yoon was the author, the brother also requested that valet Kim would bring back himself the reply. The deceitful brother used not only the butler’s fidelity to his advantage, but also gave the impression that father Yoon cared somehow for the black sheep. It was, as if the elder master was trying to rekindle with his older son. The readers can sense more his loyalty to the elder master, if they compare his reaction, when Yoon Seungho received the fake letter from lord Song.(chapter 56) Here, the domestic got scared, by just hearing the name. Nevertheless, he gave his master the advice to postpone the meeting due to his health. Yet, observe how he hides his discomfort and fear to his master by suggesting to postpone the meeting which exposes that he is hiding his true emotions. He justifies his advice by faking concern for his lord. Hence the lord can only have the impression, he is protecting his interest. Striking is that since we saw him scared, we have the impression that he is brave enough to propose not to the follow the invitation. My initial impression was to think that he got afraid of the name lord Song due to the lord’s traumatic past and he feared for his master’s mental health condition. However, the moment the valet realizes that the noble is on his way to meet this aristocrat, he gets so scared that he leaves the mansion immediately. So he doesn’t want them to meet. (chapter 56) Then in chapter 57, the butler expresses his worries concerning father Yoon. He doesn’t want the elder master to hear the news about Jihwa’s public confession, as the servant is well aware of father Yoon’s mentality. (chapter 57) He seems concerned for Yoon Seungho again. He knows that the head of the family hates homosexuality. He witnessed how the father separated Jihwa from Yoon Seungho with the excuse of an illness. He was present, when the teenager was imprisoned in the mansion. (chapter 57) One might question his loyalty to father Yoon, since the butler chose to remain by Yoon Seungho’s side after the topknot incident. However, I could respond that the valet saw it as his duty to keep an eye on the elder son on behalf of the head of the family. From my point of view, valet Kim decided to follow Yoon Seungho for other reasons than true loyalty to the protagonist. In the past, I used to think that he felt guilty for the main lead’s suffering. But I had to review my judgement. If he truly felt remorse, then he should have treated the eldest son differently in the mansion. Yet, he let him become a head-kisaeng. Moreover, the guilty conscience only resurfaces the moment he is confronted with a situation reminding him of his wrongdoing. (chapter 65) This shows that he has been successfully repressing it. In truth, he did it out of selfishness, while faking affection and loyalty to the Yoons. The readers shouldn’t forget that the head of the family decided to leave the main domain and live in the countryside. Therefore he abandoned the mansion to his eldest son. By remaining by Yoon Seungho’s side, butler Kim was ensured to have a quiet life. The man was a wreck, hence he couldn’t manage the mansion. (chapter 57) Furthermore, as an infamous hell-raiser, no powerful noble would be interested in him. When the purge occurred, the son had become the sacrifice and scapegoat, hence he was forced to remain at the property. And now, you can grasp where the butler’s loyalty lies. He is faithful to the mansion and property, and not to Yoon Seungho or father Yoon in reality. This explicates why he lies to Seung-Won and tries to stop him from entering the lord’s chamber. As Seung-Won is only the second son, he is not considered as the lord of mansion, while father Yoon is the senior and is supposed to be the head of the family. Because he is bound to the domain Yoon, he is definitely acting more like a dog than like a matchmaker or a father. He is able to find his owner very quickly, as if he was following his scent. (chapter 57) He barks like one, when he yells at Deok-Jae. (chapter 47) He is also sent to fetch the painter, when the latter is somehow “abducted” by the scholar. (chapter 24) But the most conclusive evidence for this association is his rapport to the door. He is always shown next to an opened door or even often stands on the door threshold. (chapter 64) (chapter 45) Since dog owners often put the sign “beware of the dog” on their door, you understand why I see it as an evidence that the valet is more as a dog than anything else. The butler is the guardian of the mansion, watching out for the owner’s safety. However, here we should comprehend it in a figurative sense. On the surface, the butler is looking out for the reputation of the Yoons, while in truth he is just focused on living a peaceful life far from trouble. (chapter 65) That’s why in chapter 45, he let the false rumors circulate in town, because his relationship to a commoner is not revealed. This would cause a real scandal. On the surface, it looks like Kim cared for his lord and as such for the Yoons. (chapter 64) The dog is not only a symbol for loyalty, but also it represents obedience and secrecy. He knows what is happening in the mansion, but he won’t let it transpire to the outside world. Therefore I deduce that valet Kim is quite similar to Jihwa. He knows the main lead’s whole past and tragedy, but he doesn’t truly feel sorry for the main character, for if he revealed the truth, because it would expose his culpability. (chapter 12) Simultaneously, he uses his knowledge to his own advantage, similar to Jihwa, although the latter was manipulated by Kim’s lies. And if you take into consideration the role played by the dog in different mythologies, you’ll note that they all have something in common: they are guardians of the realm of death, like for example Anubis (Egyptian) or Cerberus (Greek). And since I interpreted the mansion as Yoon Seungho’s prison and compared the master to a zombie, until he met the painter, the manhwalovers can now understand the butler’s real function. He is actually the guardian of the realm of death for the lord. To sum up, he is contributing to the lord’s misery and loneliness, as he keeps him bound to the domain and family. Moreover, the gentle valet is aware of his true role, as he has internalized the social norms. As a domestic, he is supposed to serve his master with respect and obedience, which he does on the surface. However, the reality is different, as he lies to him on multiple occasions. Hence he needs to act in the shadow. Why? The real goal of the butler is to live a peaceful life without any big responsibility. As a guardian of the kingdom of death, Kim is the one who allows people to remain by Yoon Seungho’s side or not, but since the painter is affecting the noble’s life, Kim can only perceive the painter as his enemy and source of danger. Yoon Seungho might decide one day that he would like to leave the property and join the capital.
And now, you are wondering why I believe that the butler feels guilty, but don’t forget that his bad conscience is not the real reason for staying by Yoon Seungho’s side. In my opinion, he is the one who abandoned the main lead, as he didn’t protect him from father Yoon and from the rape. Like I mentioned it above, the teenager trusted his butler and showed him his affection, therefore he must have considered him as his surrogate father. Yet the moment the former needed his help, the latter chose to do nothing and remained loyal to father Yoon. The young man must have felt abandoned and betrayed. How do I come to this conclusion? First, his attitude in chapter 64 shows him in a negative light. Out of fear and shock, he runs away and leaves the painter to a terrible fate. (chapter 64) This is not the first time that the butler had a similar reaction. In chapter 26, he tries to calm down the painter asking him to stop crying, and when the latter criticizes him, the domestic decides to leave the bathroom with the excuse that he needs to fetch him new clothes. (chapter 26) (chapter 26) He is leaving the artist behind, as he doesn’t want to be confronted with his wrongdoing: his passivity and cowardice. Then when he meets the protagonist in the main way, he sees his cold and distant gaze. So he knows that his master is in a bad mental condition, yet out of fear, he still leaves the artist behind, well aware that something bad could happen. That’s why he chose to intervene in the shadow (like for example, sending a servant to the scholar) so that I am now convinced that he even witnessed what happened to Yoon Seungho, but chose to close the door. There’s a reason for this assumption. First, he is connected to an opened door. Secondly, there’s this incident with the door in chapter 16. (chapter 16) The butler chose to open it in secret, because he desired to remain anonymous, so that his loyalty wouldn’t be questioned. As soon as it was opened, he ran away without looking back, fearing to see what was happening. That’s the butler’s trauma in the end. Back then, he chose to remain passive and close the door leaving his young master behind. But Yoon Seungho caught his terrified expression, which he can never forget, that’s why he pointed it out to the painter. (chapter 64) (chapter 64) He resented valet Kim for his betrayal and abandonment. That’s why I believe, in that scene, Yoon Seungho is using the same words than his rapist from back then. (chapter 64) In this scene he is reliving his own traumatic past, the first rape. And after it had occurred the first time, the valet must have told him this: (chapter 23) This idiom exposes his attitude, he will act, as if he knew nothing. And since I revealed that father Yoon trusted Kim and the latter was loyal to him, I am now quite persuaded that father Yoon is responsible for the sexual abuse of his son first. Striking is that my theory was confirmed in chapter 65 and 74. However, the valet acted, as if nothing happened, while the teenager was blamed for letting the servant see the rape. (chapter 65) It is even worse than I had anticipated, because he was even asked for assistance, but the valet turned a blind eye. The advice (“ignorance is a blessing”) expressed by the butler exposes his complicity. The valet became the willing helper of a rapist. In his eyes, he couldn’t stop it, as he was just a domestic. (chapter 65) Since Kim never revealed the secret of the “so-called conversion therapy” leading to the sexual abuse, father Yoon trusted his loyal servant. That’s the reason why he accepted to leave Kim behind. He knew that he would do anything to maintain the reputation of the Yoons. Furthermore, this trauma explains why the master keeps having sex outside the storage room. He is well aware that the servant will never remain there, hence he asks him in a cynical way if he wants to become a peeper. (chapter 64) Now, I can understand why Yoon Seungho has such abandonment issues. For him, valet Kim was his father, as the latter was nice and caring for him. Yet during the rape, he did nothing, as he was just a servant. And now, you understand why he feels that he has been backstabbed by his two fathers, why the main lead is using his position to keep a boundary between himself and Kim and why he is using his right as lord to keep the painter by his side. He has internalized that being a lord can protect him from pain and vulnerability. In his delirious fit, he believes that he can get what he wants. Back then, he was just a young master and not the lord of the mansion, and Kim was just a domestic. After coming to this perception, I see the chapter 64 in a different way. The chapter 64 exposes the valet’s cowardice, culpability and selfishness, hence I judge the lord’s behavior in a different light. The monster is the result of the betrayal and abandonment from two fathers, and both decided to avoid reality and see the consequences of their choices. Notice that father Yoon ran away just like the valet. But the chapter 64 could mark a turning point in Kim’s life in my opinion, as he sees the consequences of his silence. That’s why the valet decides to accept the new situation: (chapter 65) Baek Na-Kyum is now the lord’s companion, while in the past he used to plot against him. In that moment, the valet recognized that ignorance is not a blessing, because this doesn’t erase the event. Observe that Kim has a similar approach than Jihwa again. Since the painter returned to Yoon Seungho’s side, the noble has now the feeling that nothing happened. For the first time, Kim sees the true face of his master (chapter 64), and the former contributed to this due to his passivity. Now, he is facing reality, seeing the consequences of his inaction. However, the butler’s resignation doesn’t is short-lived. It even looks like the butler didn’t learn his lesson, he chose to turn an blind eye to that terrible night finding fake excuses, (chapter 65) even blaming the physician for remaining silent. And since Byeonduck has this approach that only pain can lead to changes, we have to imagine that Kim will have to suffer this time.
The chapter 16 exposes that Kim was well aware of his master’s action and decided to intervene. One might question the valet’s motives. If he intervened, why did he help the painter in the end? This would contradict my earlier interpretation: the butler is a dog and as such, he is obedient to his master. However, let’s not forget that he is a guardian of the Yoons and their reputation. By separating the commoner from his master, he ensures that Yoon Seungho’s reputation doesn’t deteriorate much more. Kim hates uproars, as they represent a source of danger for his life. As you can detect, the butler is determined to protect the Yoons’ notoriety, but out of selfish reasons. The manhwaphiles should remember that in chapter 17, he asks the maids not to approach the study like that. He is determined to keep everything under cover. He disapproves the master’s actions, as they are going against social norms. As a noble, he shouldn’t have a sexual intercourse with a low-born. That’s why he let the boy desert the mansion after the rape. He didn’t do it for the artist, but for his master’s respectability, because if this was known, then the valet’s good life would be in danger. Kim has deeply internalized social norms, any deviation represent a threat to his peaceful live. Moreover, he would attract attention again. But when he witnessed the master’s despair and fury after the escape, where all the servants had to suffer the result of his decision, he chose a different strategy. Back then, I described him as his matchmaker. He tried to present his master in a better light so that the artist would have a change of heart and accept Yoon Seungho’s advances. However, now I have to admit that I have a different judgement. He was not a real matchmaker, he was trying to turn the painter into a favored servant so that the appearances would be maintained. He decided to use a similar strategy, the aphrodisiac as a first step. And with all these new discoveries, I come to the deduction that the butler was a real accomplice of father Yoon’s schemes. If they became close sexually, the painter would become a servant and take over his role as close assistant. That way, his presence in the lord’s bedchamber could be explained. That’s why he lets the painter attend the noble during his illness and even allows his presence, when the doctor is here. In other words, he would like to hide the scandalous relationship with the low-born under the pretense that he is just a favored servant.
Now, you can comprehend why the butler let Deok-Jae sell the expensive dresser . (chapter 45) First, it symbolized that the painter was more than just a favored favor. But more importantly, he never cared about the item, since (chapter 65) He knew that the noble wouldn’t pay attention to it, since it was broken. His passivity and silence explain why the servants could talk behind their master’s back and spread gossips, sell his things and even not follow his orders. (chapter 32) Kim has no real control over the staff, although he is the right-hand of the master. His indifference and his fear for responsibility explains his lack of authority. That’s why in chapter 63, he doesn’t even attempt to correct the maids talking badly about Baek Na-Kyum, although he already knows that there’s more to it. His silence should be considered as a sign of admission, reinforcing the servants to think badly of the painter. The painter is a liar and betrayer. I have to admit that Kim’s passivity really annoyed me in that scene. (chapter 63) He is indeed a hypocrite, a selfish person, (chapter 64) although he doesn’t look like one. No wonder why the lord felt so betrayed and abandoned, and hates hypocrisy the most. He stands in opposition to Jihwa in the end. While the one did nothing, the other acted too much out of selfishness.
Furthermore, with this perception, the manhwaphiles comprehend why the domestic never tried to convince the painter directly that he was not a prostitute. Since the latter was no longer refusing his lord, then in his eyes he had achieved his goal. There’s no huge difference between a favored servant and a prostitute. Both are not allowed to refuse the sexual advances from the partner. They have no rights, their pleasure doesn’t matter. That’s why he saw no need to reveal the conversation between Jung In-Hun and Baek Na-Kyum. He only disclosed it, the moment he saw his master was able to get closer to the painter and the latter had overcome his heartbreak. Besides, this explains why he criticized the painter in chapter 52. He was not fulfilling his role as favored servant. (chapter 52) He was not the “wife”, the mistress of the house, just a servant. As you can observe, the butler is someone who abides to rules very strongly, he can’t accept a relationship between a low-born and a noble. That’s why I come to the conclusion that Valet Kim never understood the real needs of his master in the end. He never grasped that the noble was missing love and couldn’t cope with his betrayal in the end, because for him love is not important, only a peaceful life. And with this new approach, it becomes understandable why Yoon Seungho was never repulsed by the low-born. Since his childhood, he felt closeness to a commoner, and considered Kim as his father.
But after the abandonment, Yoon Seungho had learnt a terrible lesson. Kim was just a domestic. This explains why there’s no intimacy and closeness in the present situation. Their actual conversations are very limited, the master gives orders or asks questions, but he never expresses his feelings or thoughts in front of the butler. He even hides his sadness and pain in front of him. (chapter 56) He trusts him to a certain extent, because the valet took care of him, while he was delirious. The domestic even stopped him from committing suicide. (chapter 57) Yet their relationship was never the same like in the past. For the lord, Kim decided to remain by his side out of loyalty and duty, nothing more. That’s why he is so adamant to remind the domestic of his actual position. (chapter 50) This explicates why Yoon Seungho can’t trust Kim’s words in the end. (chapter 62) In his eyes, he betrayed and abandoned him once, therefore it is definitely possible that he is lying. The longer the lord lives with the artist, the more he senses that Kim shouldn’t be trusted. This explicates why the lord’s relationship with the valet is deteriorating. In season 1, he never doubted Kim’s words, but now it has changed. The painter’s genuineness makes Yoon Seungho detect the butler’s fakeness and hypocrisy. And since the lord threatened him with the sword, I am envisaging that he will do it, the moment he feels that his loyal butler betrayed him.
That’s why I come to the conclusion that valet Kim didn’t consider Baek Na-Kyum as his new adoptive son and when he “defended” him, it was always because of social norms, because of the master’s rights and position . Notice that after Deok-Jae had played the “prank”, Kim criticized him and mentioned Yoon Seungho. His gesture could have affected the master. (chapter 47) This explicates why the vicious servant never got punished in the end. Baek Na-Kyum was not considered as Yoon Seungho’s official partner, he was just a favored servant. This explains why he has no protection either and he could get kidnapped so easily. There was a motive behind his nice gestures. He desired Baek Na-Kyum to feel comfortable, so that he wouldn’t become greedy and not ask for more rights. He noticed his talent, when he saw his painting in chapter 44, hence he realized that painting meant a lot to him. Therefore he bought materials for him. (chapter 45) The purpose of this action is simple. On the one hand, he gave the impression that he was protecting Yoon Seungho’s interest, on the other hand he was pushing the jealous servant to plot something so that Baek Na-Kyum would disappear. Kim was well aware of Jihwa’s visit in chapter 43. He knew that the second lead would do something out of jealousy. Kim needed the painter’s submissive attitude, as this could only affect his lord positively, turning the mansion into a golden cage. And while I envisaged that the shock Kim experienced during that night would make change his mind, (chapter 64) chapter 65 even destroyed this expectation. He remains the same, because his philosophy is: (chapter 65) Sure, he feels guilty again, as he tries to justify his silence and passivity with fake excuses. (chapter 65) Yet, his guilt is towards Baek Na-Kyum, that’s why he is reminded of the past and his own cowardice. However, since he has always run away from responsibility, his remorse was never strong to make him reflect on his own behavior. Back then, he didn’t help his young master and remained silent and now the story is repeating itself. By connecting both events, it becomes obvious that Kim hasn’t changed at all. There’s a reason for that. He never suffered himself, like both main leads did. And like I wrote, for the author, pain is the driving force that pushes people to change.
As you could observe, valet Kim has internalized the values of his time and his social status. He liked Yoon Seungho, but not to the extent of considering him as his adoptive son. For him, he was just a commoner and a servant of the Yoons. Therefore he saw it as an act of disobedience, if he had protected Yoon Seungho back then and defied the master of the mansion. One might argue that he couldn’t have stopped it due to his vulnerable status. Yet people shouldn’t forget that Kim chose to remain, not only passive but also silent. Moreover, father Yoon trusted him so this means that the valet was his eyes and ears. He could have act behind his back. The result was that he became an accomplice of the perpetrator. By covering up the scandal, he contributed to Yoon Seungho’s misery. He chose reputation over a young boy, who truly loved him. That’s why the noble feels so insecure, even a commoner was not willing to show his love for him. The latter preferred covering up the crime, as reputation and norms seemed to be more important than a person’s life. He wanted to stay out trouble. And now, it is too late, as there’s a scandal which Kim couldn’t prevent. As you can see, no one in this manhwa is free from mistakes and huge flaws. Many admire the valet Kim for his loyalty and his secrecy (acting behind the lord’s back), yet under this new perspective these actions leave a bitter taste, because they all contributed to the misery of the two protagonists. In fact, I realize that this was done on purpose. Kim deliberately chose to ruin their relationship. But even if you can’t perceive Kim’s evilness, let’s not forget this saying, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, which would also fit the butler’s character. He means it well, yet his choices are terrible, as he prioritized the wrong values. Furthermore, willing helpers play a huge role in a dictatorship. Their excuses can be fear and cowardice, but also their adherence to the wrong values. Moreover, this truly exposes that internalizing social norms blindly can not be right, because people need to question them in order to bring positive.
That’s how I judge this character now. For me, Kim is not a father, but a black dog, the guardian of the realm of death. Hence the lord couldn’t come back to life. With this new interpretation, his death seems more imminent. By dying, the butler contribute to the lord’s emancipation. The latter can finally leave the mansion, his prison. It was the place where he lived a hell.
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