This is where you can read the manhwa. https://www.lezhin.com/en/comic/painter But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes.
In this composition, I will present a theory about the causes for Jihwa’s trauma and childish behavior, until he met the criminal Nameless which led him to face reality and change for the better. I would like to remind my readers that there’s no guarantee about this assumption, yet this idea was developed based on my discoveries and interpretations about the characters.
Before disclosing my theory, it is important to explicate how I came up to it. First, since we have a repetition of the episodes from season 1, it signifies that the author is determined to apply the saying: history keeps repeating itself. In other words, the actions Jihwa did in season 1, are happening again, even if there are some alterations. And this signifies that Jihwa must have done it in the past as well, as the story is going in circle. Let me give you an example: Jihwa hired a servant among Yoon Seungho’s staff in order to spy on him. And during the second season, Deok-Jae is hired as spy on Jihwa’s behalf. Nameless might have been the hand who decided it, yet since it was in order to help his client, Jihwa is somehow responsible for this. As a conclusion, Jihwa must have also hired spies among the Yoons’ staff, when he was a teenager, either directly or through his own servants.
Secondly, I had observed that the red-haired noble was like the negative version of the painter, or better said, the other side of the mirror. https://bebebisous33analyses.wordpress.com/2020/10/22/painter-of-the-night-lee-jihwa-another-puzzle/
Although he embodies many negative features (selfishness, arrogance, violence etc.), he is associated to innocence as well, but in a different sense: naivety and as such ignorance. Yet, unlike the painter, he has the impression that he is a man full of knowledge and experiences. Let’s not forget that he often uses the idiom “I know”. (chapter 57) Observe that he employs his knowledge to convince the childhood friend to accept his feelings, as though knowledge is a synonym for love. Then in chapter 36,the noble with the mole even repeats Jihwa’s expression (“You know”), indicating that Jihwa must have often said it in front of him, like in this scene. Although in chapter 59, the latter is not repeating this precise expression, his words imply the same. Because he was a witness of the protagonist’s terrible state, he knows Yoon Seungho the best, just like he is aware of the good relationship between Min and the noble with the mole. We could say that he is so sure about his insight. And now, if you combine both discoveries, you will come to the conclusion: Jihwa must have hired spies in the past and imagined that he had discovered what was happening in the Yoons’ mansion. But why would he do that?
It is related to the main lead’s isolation. One day, Jihwa and his childhood friend got separated all of the sudden. And since in the same chapter, we have Jihwa’s confession and the doctor’s statement that Jihwa had the same disease, we deduced that the main lead’s seclusion and separation from his childhood friend was definitely related to homosexuality. However, back then, I pointed out that the words from the physician about father Yoon made it pretty obvious that Jihwa was the cause for the protagonist’s seclusion. The father must have come to the conclusion that Jihwa was in love with his eldest son. Let’s not forget that Jung In-Hun is a character mirroring father Yoon. And we know for sure that the scholar used to abuse him physically due to the erotic paintings. , but he tried to diminish his coercive persuasion by describing it as a simple punishment. From my point of view, the father must have either discovered a letter from Jihwa addressed to Yoon Seungho, where the latter expressed his admiration or witnessed a scene, where he caught Jihwa’s gaze towards his eldest son, like a new version of this scene for example. What if Seung-Won, who was jealous of his brother due to his good notoriety, decided to fake a letter from Jihwa containing a love confession? He came to this misdeed, after seeing how Jihwa would look at his elder brother. Then he delivered it to their father so that the latter would see him as a diligent and filial son and feels disappointed by his eldest son (new version of chapter 44). I had this idea, because both faked a letter and since they are both linked to a similar incident, I have the feeling that this could be a clue related to their past. Anyway, because of their young age and their innocence, their actions had a lot of bad repercussions, which they never anticipated. Out of disgust, jealousy and fear that father Yoon might lose his son, the terrible father started abusing the main lead physically and sexually. Yet the sexual assaults remained a secret, as Kim covered up for his master. I see now another evidence for this signification with the chapter 65. However, since the main lead trusted his family, he never suspected that he became a victim of his surroundings. This explicates why the protagonist could never understand the origin for his misery and questioned himself. Let’s not forget his obsession with the question mark “why”. He was never aware of Jihwa’s feelings and his family used it as an argument to torment him in the end.
And if we take into consideration that Jihwa is similar to the artist, this means that his love for his childhood friend was very similar to Baek Na-Kyum’s feelings for the scholar. But since he is his negative version, this signifies that Jihwa couldn’t accept to be separated from Yoon Seungho, while the painter accepted to be sent away and to love the low noble from far away. In other words, whereas the commoner loved the teacher selflessly, the second character did the opposite. Hence Jihwa tried to get in touch with his friend, and decided to know what was happening in the mansion. Therefore the red-haired noble hired spies, but this was discovered and the servant or servants got punished. The result was that the main lead’s situation worsened, but the latter had no idea why and what was happening around him due to his isolation. Back then, Jihwa was quite young and must have felt guilty. Out of love and in his attempt to help his friend, Jihwa chose to keep intervening, but it always backfired causing the red-haired aristocrat to feel so guilty.
Let’s not forget that during season 1, due to Jihwa’s mischief, Yoon Seungho chose to cut ties with him. This is important, as it demonstrates the red-haired lord’s responsibility in their separation. And since the events keep repeating themselves, I believe to see this as a clue for my theory. Secondly, Jihwa still had info about Yoon Seungho through his servant, after cutting ties with him. The latter was able to get some insight through gossips, like Seung-Won’s visit for example. And it is definitely possible that Jihwa could have done the same in the past, therefore he must have noticed that something was going on at the mansion. Imagine that at the end, he chose to contact an adult asking for help which led to the discovery of the plot and the purge. Let’s not forget that Jihwa got info through Min who manipulated him. It is definitely possible that the second lead betrayed Yoon Seungho’s family, by revealing the gathered info he had and confided it to an adult, like for example lord Song, who took benefit from it. Although out of love, Jihwa desired to help his friend, he caused a purge leading to the death of many people and Yoon Seungho suffered even more, as he was sacrificed and abandoned by the father. Because he refused to abandon his childhood friend out of affection, he had the impression that he was responsible for this, thereby he felt so guilty that he repressed this. Why? Since the painter is the mirror of Jihwa, the manhwaworms can remember that Baek Na-Kyum also repressed the memories of the coercive persuasion.
Since Jihwa was so young and didn’t realize that he had been played, the burden of his responsibility became so heavy that his unconscious repressed his “responsibility”, while deciding to adopt a new philosophy: he is entitled to do everything for himself, and since people and especially commoners suffered due to him, he justified their deaths with: they’re just low-borns. Due to his guilty conscience, he became blind and deaf and at the same time, he imagined that if the main lead came to love him, then it would erase the past and his wrong decisions. It would be, as though nothing had happened. Notice that in chapter 60, the aristocrat has the feeling that no crime occurred, since the painter was returned to Yoon Seungho’s side. But since he was a teenager and had no adult to confide and trust, he couldn’t grasp that it was not his entire fault. Furthermore, I am quite certain that Jihwa is not aware that his love for Yoon Seungho was the trigger and marked the start of Yoon Seungho’s misery. In his mind, he explained with the terrible personality of father Yoon as the source of his misery.
So since he had internalized to act in the shadow and could never witness the consequences of his wrong decisions (the hired spies got killed or severely punished, asking for help and trusting the wrong person f. ex.), but he had huge pangs of conscience, he continued acting like a spoiled child later. At the same time, he hated himself so much due to his guilt that he envisaged unconsciously that if the childhood friend came to love him, then he would be forgiven. However, for him, he was responsible for the wrongdoings, but never got punished. And this explains why he used his love to commit other wrongdoings, because he was never caught and punished.
Once the father abandoned Yoon Seungho, the red-haired lord seized the opportunity to rekindle with the protagonist. He believed that now, he could get what he wanted right from the start. He had loved him all along and finally the lord was free. However, since the main lead had been forced to prostitution, Jihwa found another obstacle. Therefore he imagined that if he could create pleasure in his friend, the latter would come to love him. Yet, in his unconscious, he desired to obtain his forgiveness. That’s the reason why when he confessed to his friend, he talked about knowledge and forgiveness. He was reliving the past, but the roles were switched, hence he blamed his counterpart. That way, he was avoiding to face reality and his guilty conscious. That’s why I come to the conclusion that Jihwa is quite similar to the protagonist in reality: he is full of self-hatred. Just like the main lead, he wanted to feel loved. But contrary to Seungho, his self-hatred is the result of his guilty conscience and not to abuse.
That’s why he was so obsessed with the past and his childhood friend. With this new approach, this would show to the main lead that he had never been abandoned and was loved, but Jihwa’s love was the cause for his misery. That explains why Jihwa could never reveal it, because it would signify his admission of his guilt. Why do I connect Jihwa with a possible participation in the purge? First, he is so often using the idiom “I know”. Secondly, I couldn’t help myself thinking of the nightmare Jihwa had about bloody hands. Back then, I just considered it as a premonition, but let’s not forget that the painter’s wet dreams were always connected to repressed desires or memories. And since I associated this manhwa to the Russian novel, Crime and punishment, I would like to remind that the main lead could only stop feeling remorse and regrets, the moment he admitted his crime. Let’s not forget that we have two confessions from Jihwa:
- The confession of his crime (chapter 18)
- His love declaration (chapter 57)
This is no coincidence that we have this combination. His love is linked to crime. Furthermore, his actions during the first season were caused by his love Yoon Seungho. Now, you understand why I came to this deduction that Jihwa’s love is strongly connected to a crime and the second character feels very guilty. Let’s not forget that in his confession, he puts the responsibility on the main lead and even adds that he is forgiving him. And if you pay attention to his words in chapter 60, Jihwa says:
Back then, we assumed that he was talking about his behavior during the first season, but if we take into consideration that he already acted like that in the past, then his words have another signification. Besides, we have the word “All”. This idiom could be a clue that he is thinking about the past. Notice that he is admitting his guilt. But if my theory is correct, then he has still a long way to go, as he is not recognizing his wrongdoing committed towards the painter. He is neither apologizing nor asking for forgiveness. Everything was done out of love, an irony, when you think that Yoon Seungho feels the exact opposite. Therefore I believe that the more the situation will escalate, the more the red-haired noble will be confronted with his past and his remorse.
The final argument for this idea is the role played by Nameless. In my opinion, the criminal is ruthless, because he was involved in a crime and saw himself as a victim due to his social status. Through his terrible experiences, he learned that by working for the nobles, he is safer. Yet he despises aristocracy, as he considers this class as corrupt and as the cause for his misery. For him, they are to blame for the crimes, and the servants helping them are no better. Hence he lived a nomadic life, so that he wouldn’t be attached to anyone. However, their relationship will deteriorate the moment Jihwa realizes that the abduction had terrible consequences and he will blame Nameless for this. At the same time, Nameless will refuse to become his scapegoat, as Jihwa had still requested to have the painter abducted. From my point of view, their relationship will force them to see the truth: both are responsible, as Nameless became Jihwa’s hands and took his remorse as a sign for purity. From my point of view, Jihwa was too young back then to become the guilty one. From my point of view, he was just a pawn for the purge, just like Min used him. The real culprits are father Yoon who plotted and the one who revealed the plot in order to get some benefit. Besides, I doubt that Jihwa truly knows about Yoon Seungho’s sexual abuse, as only Kim is aware of that secret (the closed door). The red-haired aristocrat might know about the prostitution and the sacrifice, yet he is not aware that his love for his friend was the start of Yoon Seungho’s misery.
As a conclusion: What if Jihwa’s love for Yoon Seungho became the cause for their misery? What if the red-haired noble didn’t bear the thought of losing his loved one and made wrong choices contributing to the main lead’s traumatic past? At the end, he felt so terribly guilty that he became blind and deaf and even hated himself so much. What if he imagined that by getting the main lead’s love, he would get his forgiveness? If this theory is true, then it explains why Jihwa became so ruthless towards commoners in the end. He couldn’t bear the thought that he had caused the death of so many people. Let’s not forget that during a purge, the servants from the noble families get punished as well.
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