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/
Many readers are able to recognize the similarities between chapter 40 and 75, because both episodes contain the following elements:
- The prank: (chapter 40) (chapter 75: repetition from chapter 74)
- The presence of the bulletin board (chapter 40) versus (chapter 75)
- The honest conversation between the protagonists, where Yoon Seungho is encouraging his lover to introspect himself (chapter 40) versus (chapter 75)
- The color of the sky (chapter 40) versus (chapter 75)
- The presence of memories: (chapter 40) versus (chapter 75)
Yet despite all the parallels, if I had to give a title to chapter 75, I would select “Memories” and not “Responsibility”, although the latter is still present in episode 75. Why? It is, because the painter talks about his past and youth and as such, he is forced to bring up memories. (Chapter 75) And this made me realize two things: Baek Na-Kyum embodies memories, hence we got many flashbacks from the painter (chapter 2, 11, 23, 34, 38, 40, 41, 46, 56, 57, 60, 66, 74, 75), whereas Yoon Seungho embodies truth. Note that unlike the artist, Byeonduck showed us only a few memories from the aristocrat (chapter 19, 25, 48, 55, 74 with the nightmare). Moreover, the latter is always confronting the painter with his questions and observations. The noble wants him to be true to himself and question his own motivation. (Chapter 75) And this observation made realize another aspect about Yoon Seungho, because unlike chapter 40, the aristocrat stands in the center of episode 75: the significance of memories in the lord’s life.
1. Memories and identity
In order to understand why I came to this conclusion, it is relevant to examine the memories in chapter 40 due to the parallelism. There, the painter recalled the questions and comments from Yoon Seungho, which incited the commoner to ask his teacher about his future. Once the scholar had succeeded, would he become responsible for the painter, like he had implied? And observe that during the confrontation, the artist used a statement from the past: (chapter 29) Thanks to the memories, the low-born had gathered courage and faced his teacher. However, this discussion led to a tragedy. Baek Na-Kyum got hurt, because his learned sir chose to destroy him in the worst possible way. With his words, he showed his true thoughts (chapter 40) and in order to reinforce his statement, he made sure that Baek Na-Kyum would perceive his real gaze: cold and ruthless. (chapter 41) But more striking is that the scholar used memories (the kisaeng house) to define the painter’s identity: he was born to be a prostitute despite his “lessons”. He puts the whole responsibility and blame on the commoner. As a conclusion, the memories served in the conflict to identify Baek Na-Kyum. Who was he really to the scholar? Was he his helping hand, like the low-born claimed, or was he just a “prostitute” according to the scholar?
2. Memory loss and identity
This connection between memory and identity in the manhwa is not random, because according to John Locke’s “memory theory”, a person’s identity only reaches as far as their memory extends into the past. In other words, memory is a necessary condition of personal identity. Thus, as a person’s memory begins to disappear, so does his identity. Therefore, we could say that without memory, there’s no identity. On the other hand, in my previous analysis, I had demonstrated that the lord’s unconscious was trying to force his conscious to remember his past, because he had repressed his traumatic past. This meant that he was suffering from memory loss. Hence we could say, that he lost his own identity. This is not surprising that childhood trauma and memory loss go hand-in-hand. Blocking out memories can be a way of coping with the trauma. It goes even so far that an adult survivor of childhood trauma can even believe that he was never a victim of childhood trauma. Consequently, in case of a permanent memory loss, it signifies that the victim even loses his own identity. Since my theory has been confirmed that the lord was a painter in his youth, chapter 75 actually exposed the memory loss in two different ways:
- First, the lord couldn’t even remember painting an orchid (Chapter 75), an indication that his short-term memory was defective due to his lack of sleep.
- However, the master’s hand could still paint a orchid without paying too much attention to his hand. It exposes that it was actually an automatic gesture, revealing that he had internalized such a gesture in the long-term memory. And note that when he did this, he mentioned his youth (chapter 36) Therefore I come to the conclusion that Yoon Seungho’s short-term memory is not working properly. Imagine, he could remember one incident from his childhood, but he couldn’t remember painting the orchid. Hence I believe that the lord can’t even reminisce the drawings in chapter 8 and 23 . Only thanks to Baek Na-Kyum’s mention, he was able to recall the drawing. Thus the manhwalovers can comprehend why I consider the artist as a synonym for memories.
3. Trauma and memories
But in the manhwa, there’s more than just memory loss due to a coping mechanism. Traumatic events such as sexual assaults, are encoded differently than more routine due to extreme fear. The victim won’t be able to remember everything, just details, the chronology will be mixed up due to existential fear, that’s why if you recall the following panel, you’ll truly grasp the real atrocity of Yoon Seungho’s suffering. (Chapter 65) While he can’t remember what truly happened due to his poor emotional and physical state, Kim somehow blames him. The young master is so confused that he has to defend himself. This means that after the first rape, the domestic didn’t even comfort the protagonist, but he used the victim’s vulnerable state of mind (who was confused due to this terrific incident) to manipulate the noble’s memory.
That’s why when police investigate a sexual abuse and interview a victim, the latter will always be interrogated twice. The first interview focuses more on the sensory and emotional memories, while during the second, the officers will try to reconstruct the chronology. This explicates why they always wait for quite some time for the second statement. It is necessary, as the memories are now stored and they can be retrieved, although due to fear and stress, the incident can never be properly reconstructed. As you can imagine, Yoon Seungho was not in the capacity to testify about the sexual assault. This terrible event affected his memory so much that he was not given the opportunity to denunciate the crime. He was made speechless in the end due to the insinuation and as such manipulation. I bet, he couldn’t even describe what had truly happened to him. That’s why he repressed the first rape.
4. Amnesia and manipulation
But now imagine this. You are exposed to physical and sexual abuse for more than a decade, this means that your memory will be definitely affected. You are living constantly in fear and stress, two important factors, which can trigger memory loss. [read more here: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-causes-memory-loss-4123636] Like I explained briefly above, terrific events are never encoded normally. This signifies in our case, that the lord’s faculties to memorize were definitely affected due to the constant exposure, which can make him more vulnerable to false memories. Studies show that individuals with PTSD, a history of trauma, or depression are at risk for producing false memories, when they are exposed to information that is related to their knowledge base. This also signifies that they are more receptive for manipulations. Therefore I come to the next deduction that in chapter 68, Kim was definitely attempting to distort the past and create false memories. (Chapter 68) He mixed facts with lies in order to confuse his master’s judgement and memory. That’s the reason why it is important now to recall my initial statement: without any memory, there’s no identity. This signifies that in chapter 68, when Kim tried to give him memories, he desired to give him a certain identity: he was similar to his father. The latter would punish or imprison the boy and not release him. Giving a false reflection and identity is something Kim had never done before in front of his master, as he knew that his master feared his own image. However, he never imagined that Yoon Seungho would react differently. Instead of pushing away the painter, he let the artist choose his fate.
5. Making memories and forgiveness
However, in order to comprehend the topic memory, it is relevant to know how memory functions. The latter is divided in 3 parts: encoding, storage and retrieval. And in order to encode information, you have to utilize your senses. There are 3 types of encoding: semantic (words), visual and acoustic (sound). The manwhaphiles should recall that according to my interpretation, Yoon Seungho had been deprived of all his senses, therefore he lived like a ghost. And this signifies that he couldn’t make any memory at all. And with no memory, you have no identity and as such no life. That’s why when he cut ties with Jihwa the first time, he never mentioned the word “memories”, but time spent together: (Chapter 18) In my opinion, this shows that Yoon Seungho had no true memory in reality. He knew that they had sex together, but that was it. It was more like “the night is long and I need to kill time so that dawn can come faster.” Note that he never mentions their childhood together. With this interpretation, it becomes comprehensible that the main lead could act, as if nothing had happened between Jihwa and himself after the topknot incident. From my point of view, he had literally forgotten the incident, yet for Jihwa, it meant that he had been forgiven. (Chapter 59) And this explicates why Yoon Seungho barges in the mansion in chapter 67: he makes it clear that he won’t forget what happened. (Chapter 67) The real forgiveness occurred in chapter 59: Despite the caused pain, Yoon Seungho was willing to overlook the terrible action (chapter 59), but he made it clear that he would never reciprocate the feelings. This was real forgiveness from my perspective, whereas in the past, Yoon Seungho couldn’t remember anything. Jihwa had the terrible habit to use the past in order to torment his childhood friend, which always triggered buried emotions connected to memories, which the noble couldn’t control. From my point of view, the lord only had flashbulb memories which the readers could discover in chapter 55: (chapter 55)
“A flashbulb memory is an accurate and exceptionally vivid long-lasting memory for the circumstances surrounding learning about a dramatic event. Flashbulb Memories are memories that are affected by our emotional state.” quoted from https://www.simplypsychology.org/flashbulb-memory.html
These memories connected to emotions were the remains of his deeply repressed memories. The lord could only remember the feelings he had felt during his traumatic past. To sum up, the lord had no real recollection of his past, and the few things he knew where manipulations and lies explained by his butler. Therefore you can comprehend why Kim got scared, when he heard that lord Song asked for a meeting. The latter could definitely reveal new information and let the protagonist realize that he was truly suffering from memory loss.
6. Recovery from amnesia: memories
However, due to the exposure to arts, his eyes got healed, hence he could sense positive emotions and as such create good memories (visual encoding). From my point of view, when Baek Na-Kyum entered his life, the noble had started developing good memories, because so far, all he had were traumatic memories. However, Yoon Seungho’s capacities to memorize were under-developed due to the lack of practice. This explicates why he shows no interest to discover why the commoner stopped painting. This was not meaningful to him, and the readers should know that people will only memorize significant information. The emergence of his memory is visible in chapter 1. We see him speaking about his nightly activities so positively, but observe that he is only talking about recent and meaningful memories. (Chapter 1) Striking is that when Baek Na-Kyum confronts him with his poor image (“man consumed by lust”) (chapter 4), the lord is bothered. He is forced to ponder why he is described like that, hence he has to recall events from the past. Nonetheless if you pay attention, you’ll notice that the more time passes on, the more memories the lord has. They are strongly intertwined with the paintings. The latter helped him to reminisce the sex sessions and his past. He can’t forget how the painter masturbated behind the door. He is even getting more and more good memories. (chapter 18) Then in chapter 19, he reminisces the painter’s facial expressions which puts him in a good mood. (Chapter 19) This explicates why Yoon Seungho was so moved by the painter’s confession during their Wedding night. For the first time, he experienced warmth and love, he even heard a love confession. This could only be stored as a wonderful memory. At the same time, he hoped, the artist would create a picture of this night in order to ensure that this memory was real. Moreover, note that in chapter 58, he externalized how much this night meant to him. (Chapter 58)
Yet, the manhwaphiles can detect that in his confession, the memory is not entirely described as positive: “haunt”. This explicates why I consider the Wedding night as a turning point in Yoon Seungho’s life. This memory is a combination of positive and negative elements. The lord wished to relive this, but he was not satisfied, because he knew that he had impersonated the scholar. Moreover, the manhwaphiles should reminisce that after this night, the lord will do terrible things to the artist and as such, he gets now terrible memories. That’s the reason why in my opinion, Byeonduck chose to expose the rape as a flashback from the master’s perspective. Because of his bad actions, Yoon Seungho feels huge pangs of conscience and can’t act like nothing happened. He is now forced to remember. However, in my eyes it is different from the past. Before, he was just a ghost, hence he was incapable to get memories, with Baek Na-Kyum’s help, he can get memories which will help him to face his own traumatic past.
7. Memories and learning
There’s one aspect, strongly connected to memory, which I didn’t mention so far: learning.
” Learning and memory operate together in order increase our ability for navigating the environment and survival. Learning refers to a change in behavior that results from acquiring knowledge about the world and memory is the process by which that knowledge is encoded, stored, and later retrieved.” quoted from https://opentext.wsu.edu/psych105/chapter/8-2-how-memory-functions/
As you can see, in order to change, the lord needs memories. Through positive and negative experiences, the noble can gain knowledge leading to a change of attitude which the readers could observe. Gradually, the noble learnt from his mistakes and good memories. Therefore, this is no coincidence that when in chapter 75, Baek Na-Kyum talks about his past and memories, he criticizes his master: (Chapter 75) He gives him the impression that he will never change, the lord wouldn’t even remember him after his death. Now, you grasp why he reproaches Yoon Seungho his fickle nature, he is indirectly referring to the lord’s memories. His feelings will fade away just like memories. He will forget him. What the painter doesn’t realize is the following: this date is actually an important moment in Yoon Seungho’s life. For the first time, he gets to discover the painter’s memories and past, which now the noble can store as his own. He will never forget this day, especially when he heard that the painter would cry because of him (a new version of chapter 21: (chapter 21) , but here out of concern. In other words, Baek Na-Kyum would like to be remembered. Hence he complains that the lord didn’t call for him. And this can only make the lord happy, because he can detect through the painter’s words that the latter is longing for his presence and care. From my perspective, Yoon Seungho has finally grasped why the artist is not truly honest with him. Therefore he can only tease his lover pushing him to make the first step. Let’s not forget that right now, the master is now treating his lover as his new lord. So the latter has to call for him. (Chapter 75) Here, the protagonist clearly displays that he has never forgotten his companion. Their date is so important for two reasons. It allows the noble to gather more information about the commoner, and get a really good memory before the next tragedy.
From my point of view, it will help him to face his own traumatic past. Let’s not forget that a rape is planned, so if the noble was to discover this, he would be definitely reminded of his own past. Simultaneously he would be able to help his lover to recover from the traumatic incident. We shouldn’t forget that during the kidnapping, the lord’s smile was the reason why Baek Na-Kyum didn’t lose his sanity (Chapter 60) and could cope with the kidnapping much better. Note that he has no nightmare afterwards. And this detail is important, because we have to envision that while Yoon Seungho was exposed to physical and sexual abuse for a decade, he had no good memory at all in order to remain sane. Moreover, he never felt loved. Consequently, he couldn’t even think of anyone in a positive way. That’s why he was so damaged in the end. (Chapter 57)
8. The impact of Yoon Seungho’s traumas on his mind and attitude
And this leads me to the next observation: Due to his childhood trauma, the lord’s memory was affected and didn’t work properly, as for a long time, his memory was not encouraged to encode events. On the other hand, because of Baek Na-Kyum, Yoon Seungho was forced more and more to face his traumatic past, therefore his fears and abandonment issues came to the surface. This explicates why he couldn’t pay attention to details and never questioned the circumstances of the first abduction. Note that during the night at the physician’s, he still doesn’t trust his own senses. (Chapter 58) This signifies that he is unsure if what he is experiencing is real or not. From my point of view, the memory loss and his life as ghost affected his brain and the way to encode and store information. Hence he has no real recollection of the incident with Deok-Jae (chapter 30 and 53). That’s why he is not asking for his whereabouts. However, I believe to see a turning point in chapter 75. By giving the lord the opportunity to have a real date, where he could hear and see that Baek Na-Kyum was definitely affected by him, the noble will react differently compared to the first abduction and after the painter’s first flashback. He will not lose his mind blinded by his emotions and insecurities, he knows that the artist chose him. And he won’t blame himself like for the first flashback. Remember that in chapter 66, he never called the physician. Why? Because deep down, he knew that he was responsible for the panic attack. (Chapter 66) That’s why he remained by his side, until the artist had recovered. Thus the manhwalovers should envision this: After meeting Nameless, Baek-Na-Kyum will get a panic attack. (Chapter 75)
This is what I wrote in the first version:
“However, this time, the noble will wonder how this could happen. They had a nice conversation, where they exchanged thoughts. He is not responsible and it can’t be the alcohol. Moreover, he will recall his lover’s words: He won’t focus on his own emotions, but will try to calm down the artist and investigate why the painter reacted like that.” It is definitely possible that he brings back the painter to the mansion and decides to visit the physician in order to ask for an advice. From my point of view, thanks to the new memories, the noble is learning more about his surroundings and gaining more experience.”
However, the reality was that Yoon Seungho thought that the painter’s panic attack had just been triggered by the entertainers. (Chapter 76) He didn’t take his words seriously, for he believed that he had discovered the truth. Therefore the lord never investigated the circumstances of the kidnapping. Since he thought, he knew the truth, he had no reason to question this. Why did the Joker scare the painter so much? Thus the lord didn’t take the memories from the painter seriously. How could he, since he had been already informed? However, the revelation from Min had diverted Yoon Seungho’s attention from the real problem: the involvement of the helping hands (Kim, Deok-Jae, No-Name) and of the mastermind behind this.
9. Baek Na-Kyum’s memories and truth
What caught my attention is that Baek Na-Kyum is also hurt, though he has memories from his past. What he confessed to his lover represented a bad memory, and this made him feel guilty. Striking is that he believes, he knows the truth, as he can reminisce his past. Yet, he is making a huge mistake: memories are by no means facts, they are biased and even tainted. The artist took the scholar’s words as face-value. He never questioned his words, therefore he blamed himself for Jung In-Hun’s failure. Here, I would like the manhwaphiles to notice the parallels between Jihwa and the artist: both feel responsible for a tragedy, while in reality it was not the case. Both were victims of manipulations and lies.
My theory is that the learned sir imagined that he had finally the possibility to get a high position. Yet the officials thought, the teacher was the author of the erotic pictures. Remember that in the Alternative Universe, the protagonist used Jung Na-Min as his artist name. In other words, the low noble was offered a position as painter, but he couldn’t work for the officials, as he was not the author. Hence he blamed Baek Na-Kyum for not securing a post. It was, as if he had stolen it from him. I think, Jung In-Hun published poetry, but couldn’t get recognition. Therefore he used the incident (discovery of the erotic pictures) in order to punish him and force him to give up on painting. He couldn’t allow that a commoner was more successful than him. But now, we have to wonder why Baek Na-Kyum talked about his past. From my point of view, an important detail played a huge role at the inn: (Chapter 74) Observe that the woman has a similar hair dress than his noona. That’s why I believe that when he saw her, he must have been reminded of her. Note that when he speaks about the leftovers, he describes leaving food as a sin, but strangely, in chapter 40/41, he had the opposite attitude. (Chapter 41) He didn’t eat all the sweets or even skipped meals. (Chapter 41) In other words, he didn’t eat everything and committed a sin. This indicates a certain hypocrisy, simultaneously Baek Na-Kyum’s lack of critical thinking, when it comes to his noona. Moreover, he says the opposite of what he thinks. In chapter 74, he claims that the lord has changed(chapter 74), in episode 75, he claims that he has not improved his behavior. The painter’s memories clearly reveal Heena’s strong influence, which explains why he doesn’t make the first step in the end. He would like the lord to become responsible for him. But Yoon Seungho would like the opposite, because that way, the low-born can never claim that he was forced or pressured by him. In my eyes, Baek Na-Kyum still fears to be perceived as a man consumed by lust, if he makes the first move.
That’s why I believe that Yoon Seungho embodies the truth, while Baek Na-Kyum represents the past and memories. The commoner’s past will become the trigger for Yoon Seungho to decide to discover the truth about his own past and as such regain his own identity: he was a talented painter with a promising future. Since the low-born’s past with the kisaeng and the scholar are more recent, it is much easier for Yoon Seungho to unveil the lies concerning Baek Na-Kyum’s past in the kisaeng house. At the same time, thanks to the physician, Baek Na-Kyum is gathering information about his lover’s past (chapter 57), which will assist him to regain his lost memories.
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