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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I would like to thank Luzy 😉again for pushing me to ponder more about chapter 70 and its significance.
(chapter 70) When you look at the panel, you’ll observe that Baek Na-Kyum is represented by three white candles, while on the lord’s side there are just two white bougies. Since the color white symbolizes purity, this picture exposes that both protagonists are not just healing, but also getting less selfish and more open. Nonetheless, the noble’s purification is not complete yet. Here, I would like the manhwaphiles to keep in mind that since 3 is often associated with order, perfection, completion, reconciliation or fecundity due to the fusion of 1 and 2, it explicates why 3 is considered as magical and mystical. On the other hand, the number 2 symbolizes not only duality (light-darkness; ying-yang), but also balance and companionship. It is also related to kindness, and reflects a quiet power of judgment. At the same time, it indicates the need for planning and boundaries in order to keep the balance. And now, the readers can grasp why I view this panel as a confirmation that the master’s carthasis isn’t finished. In chapter 70, he has finally dropped his armor, this just means that he has finally abandoned father Yoon’s doctrines for good. But let’s not forget that Yoon Seungho’s life has not only be determined by father Yoon, but also by Kim, his surrogate father. Hence he is still under his influence.
1. The butler’s principles
But what are Kim’s rules?
- (chapter 23) Ignorance is a blessing for him, because it allows him to let his master to be in the dark. That’s why the master relied on the valet all this time. Kim was his eyes and ears, therefore certain rumors didn’t reach the noble’s ears. (chapter 18) On the other hand, the butler let him know about this gossip. (chapter 22) Since Yoon Seungho perceives himself as cultured, because he reads so much, he could only laugh about this rumor. However, he never realized the origin of these gossips. The valet utilized the rumors in order to deceive everyone, including the main lead. That’s why Kim could only judge “ignorance as a blessing”, because it helped him to manipulate the staff, the town folks and the nobles. He had an interest to create a bad image about Yoon Seungho. This helped him to keep the main character in isolation and in the dark. Moreover, it reinforced the lord’s dependency on his assistant. In order to corroborate my interpretation, I will use a panel reflecting the true nature of their relationship: (chapter 11) Observe that the valet is not portrayed with eyes. This is not just an indication of the butler’s lie. The valet’s eyes became the master’s. This signifies that the words and the vision of the valet became the noble’s reality. At the same time, the noble’s mouth is closed and his hands are not present either. Note, he is getting dressed by his own valet. As a conclusion, he is entirely relying on Kim. He has no mouth, no hand, no ear and no eye. Everything belongs to the butler. This single picture exposes the butler’s true powers. The lord was totally deprived of all his senses and his own body, a real puppet. And this interpretation leads me to the following question: Who killed the servant in chapter 1? In my eyes, the noble was just the executioner, while the butler was the judge. Why do I see it like that? First, note that in the scene, the main lead has no eye (chapter 1) and he doesn’t want to know about the painter’s reasons for not painting any longer. I know, some readers might reject this idea, but I would like them to remember that we see the butler acting like a judge in front of the doctor, that’s why the commoner begs the valet (“Are you trying to have me killed”). (chapter 65) He uses Yoon Seungho’s power, yet the latter is described as a killer. In chapter 1, Yoon Seungho was the epitome of ignorance (narrow-minded, blind and deaf) (chapter 1) and the butler didn’t need to be by his side, as he had a real control over the lord’s hands, eyes and ears. Now you understand why Kim really treasures ignorance. Simultaneously, the valet values knowledge, as it procures him power.
- Don’t take it to heart (chapter 50) This idiom doesn’t only imply to ignore your feelings, but also to deny the existence of your heart. If the noble has no emotions, then he can be the perfect puppet. This explicates why Yoon Seungho had a relapse after this conversation. Despite his warning, the master did listen to the butler’s advice.
- Act, as if nothing happened (chapter 65) That’s why there is no sincere apology. (chapter 65)
- “It’s none of my business” (chapter 65). He prioritizes his own life. He is not interested in people’s passion and well-being. He doesn’t care about people’s motivations. The latter just become relevant, the moment they affect his life. He needs to know about people’s behavior and thoughts for his manipulations in order to protect his quiet life.
- He hates trouble and scandal,(chapter 65) therefore any incident must be covered up. At the same time, it implies as well that everything must be done in the shadow. That’s why without any spectator, he removes the snowman embodying the painter. The final panel contain all the butler’s doctrines. He will erase everything related to the past, acting as if nothing happened. It doesn’t matter, if someone gets destroyed in the end, because on the surface, it will look like he just cleared a way. He gives the impression that he helped the persons concerned, not taking into consideration how his actions and decisions will affect others. If someone has to pay the price for this, then so be it, as long as it doesn’t disturb his life. From my point of view, this scene is full of symbolism. From my perspective, he is ruthless and even willing to dirty his hand to a certain extent, since he is using a broom. However, this gesture exposes too that he is not directly soiling his hands. This is the reason why he is never directly involved with people’s wrongdoings. He will just push others to commit wrongdoings with remarks. They have to act according to his own thoughts and benefit. This interpretation is not exaggerated, if you compare this scene with Deok-Jae’s misdeed in chapter 46. The vicious servant used his own feet to ruin the artist’s creation or he pushed the painter with his own shoulder. (chapter 46) At the same time, with this new approach, it helps to understand why the butler’s evilness was never caught. He could always feign ignorance with such a behavior and was never directly involved.
- And this leads to the following observation. Kim’s final rule is to utilize others in order to achieve his goal. The butler allowed Jihwa to torment the painter three times (10, 17, 59). He also allowed the vicious servant Deok-Jae to betray Yoon Seungho and plan a murder (chapter 51). He hoped that Heena noona would take the painter away (chapter 68) and he is now expecting that Min organizes a second abduction while framing others: Nameless, Heena noona and Jihwa.
After exposing the butler’s doctrines, I would like to describe the impact of these rules over Yoon Seungho’s life, and they slowly disappeared or diminished.
2. Yoon Seungho’s life under these rules
- First, the rule “don’t take it to heart” was completely abandoned in chapter 58, because he was confessing his love to the painter properly: (chapter 62) Here, the noble stated that he adored the painter). This means that the light and warmth had finally reached the lord’s heart, which is also mirrored by the light in the panel. But the problem is that after the low-born’s disappearance, the master had the impression, he had been betrayed and abandoned. Hence he became enraged and blinded by his own wound. This is a sign that he definitely took it to heart. Moreover, we shouldn’t forget that despite the incident at the barn, the noble was not even able to stick to the rule, treating the artist like a sex toy. In the end, Yoon Seungho brought him to his own bed, indicating that he considered him as his partner. To sum up, the noble was still not honest to himself exposing the valet’s influence.
- The longer the painter remained by his side, the more the main lead caused trouble and scandal (rule 4). First, it started with the nobles’ humiliation in chapter 8 and 18.. Then another scandal appeared, when the lord punished the staff for not following his order (chapter 30). As you can see, the uproar remained within the mansion in season 1. This is the reason why the noble retreated in chapter 30, when he was pressured by the other aristocrats. (chapter 33) Here, he was definitely avoiding any scandal. He was running away, although he tried to deceive the nobles by declaring that the painter would belong to him. And during the second season, the readers can observe a progression, the scandal and uproar is now reaching the town (chapter 64) . Thereby the climax was reached in chapter 67, when Yoon Seungho visited the Lees’ mansion. For the first time, he was confronting a noble and didn’t fear to cause a scandal, when he showed up with a sword and didn’t even remove his shoes. (chapter 67)
- As for the principle “act, as if nothing happened“, the manhwaphiles can detect that it is still present in the lord’s life, because he still doesn’t judge his action in the barn as a wrongdoing. (chapter 70) And this confession could be used against the lord later, hence after that night, Yoon Seungho kept his distance from his lover. Thus he said this to his lover in chapter 75 and later asked if the painter was truly resisting. Slowly, he had internalized that consent was central: (chapter 79) But this doesn’t signify that this doctrine had completely vanished. For me, it has been gradually weakened, the moment the lord started feeling remorse. The problem is that he still relied on the butler to correct his wrongdoings. That’s why he sent the valet to the artist in chapter 12 or left the artist behind in chapter 33. He ran away from his responsibility (chapter 33) and let Kim take the burden. Yet the more time passed on, the more the noble took his responsibility. He protected him from the maids and decided to buy him better clothes. This is no coincidence that in chapter 40, he implied to the painter that the latter could now rely on him. This progression is visible, when he took care of the painter in chapter 55. He covered him (chapter 55) and watched over him during the night. But this principle will be truly abandoned, the moment the lord apologizes properly, and this expectation was proven correct, as the real apology took place in season 3. (chapter 102) Nevertheless, for me, he truly changed a lot from episode 70, because there he expressed regrets for the first time in front of the painter. Notice that in episode 71, we had a semi-apology, for he was admitting his mistakes: (chapter 71) The problem is that in the bathroom, he chose the wrong words. Hence the painter could only misunderstand him and pushed his hand away. While the manhwaphiles could witness his huge pangs of conscience, the painter never did. He was either unconscious (chapter 32) or asleep (chapter 50) or blind or deaf(chapter 49). And little by little, the lord learned how to apologize to his lover. In season 3, he admitted his wrongdoing right away. (chapter 82) Then later he tried to redeem himself. (chapter 84) Note that here, he was doing everything himself. He was no longer relying on Kim. Hence in the first version, I had voiced that the lord would apologize to Baek Na-Kyum, after the second abduction had been solved. And this expectation became a reality. The lord felt definitely huge pangs of conscience. (chapter 102) He knew that Baek Na-Kyum had been targeted. Yet he thought that by just warning his childhood friend, the problem was solved. He didn’t desire to cause too much trouble. However, I believe that after this crime, the noble will realize that he needs to take matters into his own hands. He can no longer live like that, he needs to become more reliable and not to fear scandal. We have another clue for this theory, the painter’s question: (chapter 102) He is tasked to investigate how this tragedy could take place. Why did they get separated for so long.
- “Ignorance is a blessing“
- with to utilize others in order to achieve his goal: Yoon Seungho praised Kim in that scene (chapter 23), because he liked keeping people in the dark as well. We had a perfect example with the deal between Jung In-Hun, the painter and the protagonist. First, Yoon Seungho gave the scholar the impression that the former was just an uncultured fool, whereas in truth the low noble was the one deceived, because Yoon Seungho was giving him just an empty promise. At the same time, the rich noble lied to the painter, when he claimed that Jung In-Hun had come to see him. (chapter 7) However, it backfired on Yoon Seungho the moment the latter saw the painter’s reactions. He would run to his former teacher immediately, leaving the main character behind. Then he smiled to Jung In-Hun (chapter 7) and blushed in his presence. That’s the moment Yoon Seungho’s heart was moved, justifying the words in chapter 63: (chapter 63) No one has ever questioned how the master could treasure the artist’s smile so much? One might say that the first smile occurred in chapter 40 (chapter 40), but as you know, each event happens twice during the same season. So the lord experienced it much earlier. That’s why I believe that the first smile in chapter 7 played a huge role. The incident marked the return of the aristocrat’s jealousy, which had been buried for a long time. That’s why Yoon Seungho decided to reveal his plan. He hoped that with this new approach, Baek Na-Kyum would perceive him as a benevolent lord and look at him differently. He hoped that Baek Na-Kyum would smile for him. This explicates why the lord underlined the importance of connections and wealth. (chapter 7) Note that at the end of the chapter, he treated the painter as a real guest. He invited him to his bedchamber officially. (chapter 8) And observe that the noble was here smiling, he was already imitating the artist. This explicated too why not only his moves in this chapter were contradicting each other, but also Kim was introduced here for the first time. And note that from that moment, the lord never tried to trick the painter afterwards. Like I have already pointed out, the incident at the pavilion was definitely organized by the butler. And with this example, the manhwaphiles can see that the lord was applying the 6th rule as well, but dropped it due to the low-born’s reaction. This is not surprising why this manipulation ended up causing more and more pain. Yoon Seungho had brought him upon himself, revealing how the first doctrine “ignorance is not a blessing“. With this new observation, I perceive the episode 7 as a first major turning point. The lord was dropping the 6th rule (to utilize others in order to achieve his goal). However, this doesn’t mean that he abandoned the first doctrine. Quite the opposite… it took him a long time to realize why he couldn’t achieve his goal. In my opinion, the master started changing in chapter 67. Contrary to chapter 33, Yoon Seungho couldn’t bear to hear how people would talk behind his back: a sodomizer and a beast who corrupted Lee Jihwa and others. (chapter 67). Note that for the first time, the lord decided to defend himself, correct people’s perception about him, which he never did before (chapter 18, 22, 57). This coincides the return of the lord’s hearing and speech abilities. In chapter 67, he is using his own ears and mouth, he is no longer relying on the butler’s help. What the lord imagined to perceive as help was just an illusion. However, I believe that the lord decided to drop the first principle in chapter 68, when he heard the conversation between Baek Na-Kyum and Heena noona. Observe that he is listening behind the door, as if he was spying, which I perceive as another evidence for Kim’s spying activities. Nevertheless, this was never the main lead’s intention, hence he left quietly. Yet the painter’s words did push the lord to abandon the butler’s first principle. But what did he hear exactly? Here, I have to admit that I can’t be 100% sure, but I think that he heard the painter’s confession, because in chapter 70, Yoon Seungho asked the painter, if the latter was afraid of him (chapter 70). And note that when the painter confessed, he externalized his fear. (chapter 68) But what caught my attention is that when we see the lord’s feet in front of the door, we have to keep in mind, Yoon Seungho was not able to see the painter’s tears. He could only hear his words. Consequently he was relying on his own ears. However, this doesn’t signify that Yoon Seungho is blind. In my opinion, in this precise moment Yoon Seungho was able to envision Baek Na-Kyum’s tears, because he was forced to use his mind’s eye. Then with this new perspective, we have a new version of chapter 3. However, the huge difference is that Yoon Seungho’s mind’s eye is no longer focused on himself, but on the painter. This explicates, why the master decided to retrieve and to give him space. Without seeing his face, he could sense that there was affection, because the painter was crying. The readers should recall that the painter’s tears have always had a huge impact on the noble, because they healed his eyes, hand and heart. The manhwaworms can comprehend why the lord chose to let the painter determine his own fate. The presence of tears and the painter’s voice were able to remove the lord’s veil on his eyes and ears for good. I would like to remind the manhwaphiles that in chapter 68, Kim tried to destroy the lord’s own judgement by recurring to gaslighting and distorting the past. [For more explications, read this essay: https://bebebisous33analyses.wordpress.com/2021/01/30/painter-of-the-night-heroes/ ] In other words, the discussion in chapter 68 represented the most important battle between the master and his domestic, where the latter wanted the main lead to lose his sight and hearing for a second time. However, the butler failed. The irony is that people perceived the argument as the butler’s victory, while in truth it should be judged as the valet’s loss of power. What Kim didn’t expect is that with his manipulations, he encouraged the main lead to rush to the painter’s study. The butler never expected that the lord would stop right in front of the door and listen to the conversation. For me, this marked the return of the lord’s senses. This is the reason why the lord is able to hear the door opening and the commoners leaving the study, (chapter 69) although he is sitting in his bedchamber. Imagine, he is no longer relying on the butler’s information contrary to chapter 56: (chapter 56) With this new approach, the readers can understand why the aristocrat can make such a comment in chapter 70: . Therefore I deduce that the butler can no longer control the lord’s body, since he is no longer required to be his eyes, ears and hands. However, this doesn’t mean that Kim is truly defeated. He still controls the staff, especially the male domestics. Here, I would like to make a little disgression. In my opinion, the butler played a huge role in the first abduction. How come that the servants were so sure that the painter had run away? (chapter 61) They were not present, since both protagonists were at the physician’s. From my point of view, Kim must have manipulated the servants… he just needed to imply that Baek Na-Kyum had escaped, while in front of Yoon Seungho, he would say the opposite later due to the commoner’s return: (chapter 62) There’s no doubt that with the painter’s appearance, he could use the incident to obtain more support from the servants. The painter had caused trouble again, he was responsible for their misery. But since he truly exposed his true nature to the main lead (abusing his authority, criticizing and judging his master), he can no longer appear in front of him. Right now, he has to lie low, hence he needs other people to be his eyes and ears. This explains why the servant is portrayed without eyes either (chapter 70). The absence of the eyes is an indication that they belong to Kim, just like the lantern indicates that the domestic is acting on the valet’s order. And in season 3, we can observe a similar situation. This time, they faked obedience (chapter 99), while they badmouthed their master. (chapter 98) Because the lord feared to lose his lover, he didn’t pay attention to the domestic’s insult: (chapter 98) But the insult was the proof that they never treated the painter as a part of the household. He was just a spoiled brat.
- And since the noble is now using his own body and all his own senses, it becomes clear why the lord is gradually becoming less selfish. He needed to be selfish in the past in order not to become completely alienated. This signifies that he would have lost his own identity. This explicates why his selfishness is slowly vanishing, indicating that the noble is on the verge of dropping rule 4 (“This is not my business“) which embodies selfishness. On the other hand, his selfishness can not completely be eliminated, as long as the butler is by his side. Why? It is because the valet is trying to justify his actions by acting selfless. He lulls the lord in the illusion, he will do anything for Yoon Seungho, and the new scene in the bathroom is the perfect example. Observe that the lord is determined to treat the painter more like a guest, hence he asks his servant to follow the painter to the door. From my point of view, it was not, because he wanted the domestic to keep an eye on the painter, but because he wanted to treat the artist with great respect. Yet, note that the moment the kisaeng leaves her brother and the door closes, the servant’s behavior and tone change drastically. He pressures Baek Na-Kyum and gives orders. He is truly rude. We could say that he treats the low-born like a servant, as though he wanted him to feel so little. Kim’s strategy was to remind the painter of his position: he is just a servant, a new version of chapter 52. Remember that Kim’s intention from the start of the second season was always to diminish the artist’s status: he is just a temporally favored servant, nothing more. Striking is that the domestic never says that the lord gave him the order to bring the painter. He uses here a passive sentence “you are to attend to him” which is important. That way, the servant can hide the identity of the person who requested this. And since the lord was looking at the intruder in a rather cold way, I believe that he didn’t expect Baek Na-Kyum. However, when the door was closed loudly, the lord must have realized that this must have been Kim’s action. The lord didn’t mind, for it looked like the butler was helping him to improve his relationship with the painter. This interpretation was also confirmed in season 3. Yoon Seungho showed no desire to investigate the matter of “Jung In-Hun” or Deok-Jae’s death, for he was too much focusing on his lover. He kept saying that this was not of his concern. (chapter 98) However, he was totally wrong here. That’s the reason why the abduction could even take place. Because of the last incident, the main lead is forced to recognize that he needs to investigate the matter, as everything or everyone can affect his life. This is important, because that’s the only way for Yoon Seungho to recognize the butler’s wrongdoings. He encouraged him not to pay attention on others so that he wouldn’t detect his wrongdoings. Thanks this rule, Kim could live freely.
All this leads me to the final observation: since the butler is relying on others, this signifies that these persons become his eyes, ears, mouth and hands. Therefore he becomes dependent on them. This indicates that the valet has switched his position with the noble. And this is relevant, because this announces Kim’s future demise. He will experience himself, how ignorance can’t be a blessing. In chapter 69, they heard from the kisaeng that the painter could write, hence he will take this info as face-value. I am assuming now that he knows that the painter can not read Chinese and will come to the conclusion that he can read Hangeul like any commoner. However, while in the past, I used to think that Kim had asked the domestic can only listen to their exchange, I realized that I was wrong. It was still Kim behind the window. (chapter 70) But he is deprived of his sight. And now, if you look at the conversation in the bathroom, we have to question what information the spy gathers:
“You refuse to watch” and “Don’t push me away”
This means that the servant will have the impression that the artist is still resisting the lord, especially after hearing that the low-born corrected the lord. However, the spy can’t see what is happening in the room. He can’t observe how the painter is letting the lord caressing his face (chapter 70), kissing him tenderly . That’s why Kim will have the impression that the painter is still not accepting the lord. This explicates why after that night, they were separated. The butler imagined that if they had no longer sex, the artist would feel neglected and believe that the lord had already a change of heart. He hoped that after such a separation, the painter would leave the mansion, exactly like the lord had been encouraged to have a relapse in chapter 50. In my eyes, Kim was slowly viewing the artist as a man consumed by lust. How could he still accept to have sex with Yoon Seungho after the latter had treated him like a sex toy in the shed? The butler couldn’t grasp the protagonists’ thirst for love and warmth.
From my perspective, Kim had already realized the urgency of the situation at the end of season 2. He was on the verge to lose his position. The painter was getting more and more power, while the reality is that Yoon Seungho was slowly regaining his freedom, because he was just owning his own body. This explicates why he is now delicate and treats the painter’s hand as a treasure. (chapter 70) Under this new light, it becomes understandable why Kim decided to betray his master and rekindle with Yoon Chang-Hyeon. The punishment was the signal for the valet to switch the alliance.
Therefore as long as the butler remains by the noble’s side, the transformation is not completed. That’s why we still have no proper apology and the lord is not determined to get justice for the artist. Yet, the light has already entered the master’s heart, irradiating his whole body. Consequently, the main lead could finally drop his armor: it melted away. To conclude, the final transformation took place in the mountain which was symbolized by the lord’s tears. (chapter 102) From that moment on, the light had now reached the mind. He could drop his self-loathing finally which was the foundation of Kim’s principle. It was okay to cry. These were tears of happiness and relief… He had been able to rescue his lover. This means that Yoon Seungho did everything what the butler rejects: the embrace as a way to console and apologize and the tears as a sign of regret and happiness. But why does the valet abhor them? It is because he could never admit his own mistakes and as such he could never beg for forgiveness. (doctor Frost, chapter 211) 8chapter 50) Since he has been denying the existence of his heart, there can be no light in the heart. (chapter 50) Here, the butler never cried, he just showed pity and sympathy towards Baek Na-Kyum, however he was not speaking from the heart.
And now, I would like to close this analysis with three quotes from the book called “The Light in the Heart written by Roy T. Bennet which inspired me to write this essay, because it illustrates the lord’s metamorphosis:
“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice (chapter 63/70). Optimism is a choice (chapter 68/69: the lord recognized that he still had some chance, though he was very scared). Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice (chapter 69). Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.”
Don’t just learn, experience.
Don’t just read, absorb.
Don’t just change, transform.
Don’t just relate, advocate.
Don’t just promise, prove.
Don’t just criticize, encourage.
Don’t just think, ponder.
Don’t just take, give.
Don’t just see, feel.
Don’t just dream, do.
Don’t just hear, listen.
Don’t just talk, act.
Don’t just tell, show.
Don’t just exist, live.”
With this quote, the readers grasp better why the lord was just existing like a ghost in the past before meeting Baek Na-Kyum. He was only a puppet, while he was lulled in the illusion, he was a free spirit haunting an armor. This explicates why he couldn’t feel remorse in the past, why he could neither hear, nor see, nor talk nor dream nor give etc. And since he has promised that he won’t frighten Baek Na-Kyum (chapter 70), he needs to prove it. He will never hurt anyone close to the painter, hence he spared the kisaengs. I have to admit that I have been thinking about the next step: asking the painter to brush his hair. This would announce the butler’s complete loss of power. At the same time, it would signify that the lord is showing that he trusts Baek Na-Kyum and is using his hair to woo the painter. And this could definitely correspond to the master’s attitude: his will to open up. Simultaneously, he could express the following wish: he would like to comb his lover’s hair himself encouraging him to have a topknot.
And now, I would like to close this essay with the following quote from Bennet
“We are all different. Don’t judge, understand instead.”
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