This is where you can read the manhwas. https://www.webtoons.com/en/mystery/dr-frost/list?title_no=371 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/
1. What is home?
Before starting analyzing the manhwa under this aspect, it is important to define the term home. In a dictionary, this is what you find:
- the house, apartment, etc. where you live, especially with your family
- the type of family you come from
- a place where people or animals live and are cared for by people who are not their relations or owners
- someone’s or something’s place of origin, or the place where a person feels they belong
- your own country or your own area https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/home
As the readers can detect, home has a lot of significations. The reason is simple. It depends on the perspective. When people are asked where their home is, some will answer that their home is the place they are actually living, others will reply that it is the place where their family lives or where they were born and raised. But all have something in common: Home is where the heart is. To sum up, home is very subjective and personal.
2. Home and identity
Since home is related to our disposition (liking, family), it means that home represents a part of our identity, it even defines us. This explicates why psychologists sometimes visit their patients’ home in order to better grasp their personality and issues. (Dr. Frost, chapter 8) As you can see, home is strongly connected to identity and personality. In other words, without home a person loses his identity. This is no coincidence that homeless people often have no ID.
3. Baek Na-Kyum’s home
Consequently, the manhwaphiles can comprehend why Baek Na-Kyum had huge abandonment issues and a low self-esteem in chapter 46. He felt so lonely and lost, for he had no place he could call home. It was, as if he had no identity. When he deserted the mansion, he first thought of the kisaeng house and his noonas (chapter 46), until he remembered how he had been sent away by Heena noona. (chapter 46) This moment was terrible for the painter, because he had the impression to be abandoned a second time. Note that he is not calling the kisaeng house his home… for him, it was no longer a home, because his heart had been wounded there. Hence the manhwaphiles sense why the painter was using his mind in chapter 75 (chapter 75) and was restraining himself from falling more for Yoon Seungho. He had come to view the mansion as his home, and if he came to accept Yoon Seungho as his companion, then the latter would become his home, his family. Don’t forget my previous statement: Home is where the heart is. He was afraid of getting hurt a second time. If the lord came to have a change of heart, he could lose his new founded home.
Since the fight with Deok-Jae (which I am explaining more in details later), the painter had come to view the mansion as his home, hence he stated this to his lord: (chapter 58) And now, you comprehend why he stopped in the middle of the street during his escape. He had recalled how Heena had sent him away. (chapter 46) The painter had come to associate home to a family and as such to people. This explicates why the kisaeng had forbade him to bid farewell to his sisters. I am not saying that the kisaeng’s decision was ill-intended. She knew that if he met the kisaengs, the latter would have convinced him to stay. As you can see, he had experienced himself how his sister had abandoned him in the end. To conclude, for Baek Na-Kyum, in the past home was a synonym for family and a place.
4. Heena’s definition of home
But why would she coerce her brother to leave the gibang? Observe that she never gave her brother a choice. She never realized her wrongdoing, because she imagined that she had done it out of love, and it was for the painter’s best interests. Anyway, when Baek Na-Kyum reproached his lover his fickle nature (chapter 75), in my eyes, this perception should be applied to Heena noona who could send away her brother in such a way and never contacted him afterwards. That’s the impression she gives. (chapter 68) Observe how she blames her brother for not contacting her, while she had strictly forbidden him to come back. At the same time, the readers should question her behavior. How come that she never showed any concern for Baek Na-Kyum for 18 months, until she found out that he was living with Yoon Seungho? Why didn’t she contact him in the first place in order to check out if he was living properly? She gave him instructions, and the main lead listened to her, and now she is reproaching him that he should have disobeyed her. In my eyes, Heena noona acts more like a person with a fickle nature. She shows great care and concern in chapter 65 and 68, but she never searched for her brother’s whereabouts before. So far, the readers can only assume that she had no idea that he had been living as a drunk, and she only discovered his whereabouts by hazard. (chapter 64) Yet, this is just an impression because of this scene. Yet, in season 3, Heena confided to Min, and the latter revealed the content of her confession: (chapter 99) The idiom “bittersweet affections” indicated that the learned sir had expressed regret and disappointment concerning Baek Na-Kyum. This means that Heena knew that Jung In-Hun’s affection towards the low-born had been changing. As you can see, I come to the conclusion that Heena was already aware of the existence of tension between the painter and his former teacher.
What caught my attention in chapter 68 is the following: Heena noona is not even using the word “home”. At no moment, she employs this expression. When she parted from her brother in chapter 46, she mentions the noonas and when she asks her brother to follow her, she says: “Come with me”. As you can see, Heena doesn’t consider the kisaeng house her home. That’s the reason why I think that for her, the kisaeng house had been her workplace and she associated home more with people she cared about, similar to the painter. And this observation made me realize why the sister sent her brother away. Heena noona has never liked the kisaeng house, let’s not forget that she is a slave and she can not leave that place. And the guards could be judged as her wardens, they are keeping an eye on her, similar to the role played Yoon Seungho in chapter 45. For her, the kisaeng house was a synonym for prison and hell, where she kept meeting these terrible and violent rich nobles. (chapter 68) Hence in her mind, when she asked her brother to leave the kisaeng house, she imagined that she was helping the painter to escape from prison. Since she admires the scholar so much, she saw in him her helping hand. He would assist her brother to become a free man. The readers should notice that the learned sir always left the kisaeng house with the low-born (chapter 68), when there was a ruckus. So when the kisaeng made the request to the teacher (chapter 46), she envisioned that he would acquiesce her request, since he had done it so many times in the past (taking care of Baek Na-Kyum and becoming responsible for him). Moreover, she knew that the artist liked and admired Jung In-Hun. For her, the scholar was a liberator, because he acted so differently towards the kisaengs and Baek Na-Kyum. That’s the reason why she thought, she was doing the right thing for her brother, while in reality she was just projecting her own desires into the artist. And this interpretation was proven correct, because when she vanished from the gibang in season 3, she was no longer dressed as a kisaeng. (chapter 99) She was deserting the kisaeng house, and as such the noonas. And note the parallels between chapter 46 and 97/99. In both cases, the painter couldn’t bid farewell to the other kisaengs. (chapter 46) (chapter 99) It is because she was using her brother. In the first desertion, her choice was influenced by her unconscious. She had just projected her own thoughts and desires onto the artist’s. In season 3, she had made a conscious choice. In exchange of her brother, she would gain her freedom. Thus she used the expression “us” (chapter 97) This time, it was for her own sake. But the price for her freedom was that she had to sell her brother. She could still have a clean conscience by convincing herself that Yoon Seungho had killed her idol. At the same time, she needed to fake her death. (chapter 99) [For more explanations read the analysis “Heena’s curtains”] This means that she was betraying the eonnies one more time. And that’s how I had another revelation. In my eyes, after their separation, Heena had come to view her life in the gibang differently. She had been able to perceive the good aspects of her life as a kisaeng. She could live a comfortable life and as such get new hanboks. (chapter 64) That’s why I believe that she came to forget her brother, like “out of sight, out of mind”. But how did she come to view the gibang as a place of hell? In my opinion, it is related to Yoon Seungho! She knew about his misery. Thus I am deducing that the painter’s vanishing from the gibang coincides with the end of the lord’s misery. Thus I have the impression that her definition of home came to change. It was less connected to the kisaengs and the painter, as such to family. She came to like the place.
But let’s return our attention to episode 46. (chapter 46) Because she didn’t allow her brother to speak his mind, she hurt his heart and created more wounds than before. That’s why I perceive the argument in chapter 68 as important. For the first time, Baek Na-Kyum is not listening to Heena. Since home is where the heart is, her brother could only reject her proposition to come back to the kisaeng house. He had been abandoned by the noona. However, because he was afraid of his own feelings towards the aristocrat, he created new problems with his confession. His description reinforced her bad impression about Yoon Seungho. That’s why Heena noona will never believe that this place can become the artist’s true home. For her, this place can only represent a new prison, for she has a negative perception of nobles. Hence she needs to rescue her brother. (chapter 69) Besides, I believe that she has another reason. The lord is connected to her own guilt, but she is not admitting her responsibility. In the first version, I had expected that due to his confession, the kisaeng would never trust Baek Na-Kyum’s words later. And this was proven correct. Why? First, Heena noona embodies a certain kind of knowledge: prejudices. Because she has already experienced many things, she has the impression that she knows everything. However, she is not realizing that her world view is based on her own perception. Secondly, her superficial knowledge turns her into a blind and deaf person. What she sees and hears will be interpreted the way she perceives the world. I had even written this back then:
“Even if her brother tells her how well Yoon Seungho treats him and how much he loves his companion, she will have the impression that he has been brainwashed or coerced. Why? It’s because she has always treated her brother that way.”
In addition, she knows a part of the truth, while her brother was left in the dark entirely. Thus she reproached her brother his stupidity: (chapter 97) Contrary to him, she knows, because she saw and heard things, when Yoon Seungho suffered! Yet, her knowledge is totally superficial, like the last panel exposes it. She just jumped to (false) conclusions. That’s how she got herself manipulated. Because of her bias, she became an easy target of deceptions. That’s the reason why she believes herself in rumors. Like the scholar said it himself, (chapter 29) there exists a kernel of truth in the grapevine. Moreover, with her caresses and hugs, she used love to stop her brother from speaking his mind. (chapter 46) That’s the reason why Baek Na-Kyum could only express himself through painting, as he had become mute. Due to her decisions and actions and the scholar’s, she contributed to turn the artist into a boy full of insecurities, unable to express himself. Consequently, Heena noona was put in front of the same choice in season 3. Note that the return of the painter to the gibang coincides with her departure. This means that due to the couple’s love session, she was reminded of her own past. She was forced to recall why she had associated the gibang to hell in the first place. (chapter 96) She was definitely scared in that scene. That’s the reason why at the end, she utilized her brother to leave the gibang. (chapter 97) However, the gods wanted to confront her with the true consequences of her choices. She wouldn’t live with her brother, their paths would get separated. (chapter 99) She had to choose between her brother and her life, and she selected freedom over Baek Na-Kyum. This is no coincidence that their bloody reunion happens in front of the scholar’s home. (chapter 99) This mirrors that her original dream was to live with her brother and the scholar, but this was just an illusion. She had hoped that once the artist was by Jung In-Hun’s side, the learned sir would come to buy her, and they would live together. She counted on the learned sir’s affection for the painter. But this was never Jung In-Hun’s intentions and he excused his behavior by putting the blame on the protagonist. (chapter 99) That’s the reason why the kisaeng mentioned the bittersweet affections. The scholar came to see the painter as a burden. This new approach gives us a clue why the artist chose the noble over his noona in chapter 68. The lord might have been violent, yet unlike all the other characters he allowed Baek Na-Kyum to be true to himself and to express his thoughts and emotions. Let’s not forget that in reality he was the only one encouraging the painter to paint, which was the commoner’s true passion. He even praised him, while even Heena couldn’t restrain herself from criticizing her brother. Freedom is an important condition for calling a place or people home, next to comfort and safety. But when the kisaeng left the gibang, it was just a fake freedom, as her safety is strongly intertwined to the benevolence of the noble protecting her! (chapter 97) Hence I come to the conclusion that Heena associates home to the learned sir and not to her brother. Exactly like the artist, she made a choice. She sided with Jung In-Hun, the poor learned sir, who got disappointed with Baek Na-Kyum. But she believes now that he is dead. Hence by leaving the kisaeng house, she doesn’t realize that she is abandoning everyone: the eonnies and Baek Na-Kyum. She has no one by her side… except the noble who sent the guards. From my point of view, she is trusting the butler.
5. What is home for the couple?
In season 2, we could see the transformation of the meaning of home. For Baek Na-Kyum, the mansion of Yoon Seungho had become his home, like we could perceive it in chapter 46. or in chapter 58. Why? It is related to the way he was treated by the head-maid, the butler and even Yoon Seungho. All of them considered him as part of the mansion. The head-maid gave him advices, the butler through his comment indicated that he belonged now to the mansion. (chapter 52) And finally Yoon Seungho treated him well on different occasions by sharing his breakfast with him or sending him to the doctor or by protecting him from Deok-Jae. Yet I believe that the decisive factor is the momentary separation. Although the painter had lost his position as favored servant, the noble never sent him away. He let him live in the study and kept treating him well. The artist could sense that despite the distance, the noble was not willing to cut ties with him. This explicates why Baek Na-Kyum resisted to the vicious servant, when the latter tried to force him to leave the property. (chapter 53) This was his home now, and he wanted to protect what he had finally found. Despite the pain, he didn’t move. He was ready to do anything for his home. This gives us a glimpse of the painter’s future behavior, when his lover is targeted. There’s no doubt that he will fight for him. And now, if you compare the two following panels, you’ll realize the similarities between the two scenes: (chapter 46) (chapter 76) In both scenes, the painter has a revelation. In chapter 46, he is alone and has no place to go. However, he is strong enough to stand on his feet, while in episode 76, he is paralyzed by fear and becomes so weak. Yet, exactly like in the first image, he feels lonely, but since he can’t escape, this position makes him realize his vulnerability. He needs help and protection. That’s why the moment he realizes the noble’s presence (chapter 76), he seeks his embrace and warmth. (chapter 76) Only there he feels safe. This terrible experience opened his eyes: he has to rely on someone. (chapter 76) Thus for the first time, he requests assistance. So while in the lord’s arms, the painter can slowly calm down, however he is still very shaken, as he has just experienced a life-threatening situation again, revealing the traumas left behind by the first abduction and the blackmail. Yet, after a while he expresses the wish to go home. (chapter 76) With these words, it truly outlines that the mansion has become Baek Na-Kyum’s real home, a place where he feels comfortable and secure, which represents a continuation of chapter 46. While in chapter 46, he just considered the mansion more like a refuge or shelter, now he connects it to family. It has truly become part of his identity. But the embrace on the street let him discover that Yoon Seungho could become a home too.
Striking is that there’s a difference between the Korean and English version, when the lord replies to his request. In the original version, the lord is now admitting that the mansion is also his home now, whereas in the past it was just a prison and he wanted to have a companion by his side. In the English version, there’s only silence. This difference affects a lot the interpretation. By remaining silent, the noble is not acknowledging the mansion as his home, but this doesn’t mean that he has no home. In my opinion, Yoon Seungho perceives the painter as his home, hence he prefers remaining there hugging his lover. The painter gives him the warmth and love the lord has always been longing. That’s why he gives the excuse that they should stay there. It seems that the English version sounds colder than the original, yet I believe that Yoon Seungho is using his position in order to legitimate his refusal. Why do I think that the lord views the painter as his home? First, like I wrote above: Home is where the heart is. Secondly, I had already explained that Yoon Seungho would always follow the painter, because he considered him as his home and as such his family. So far, the lord has always perceived his mansion as prison and the bedchamber his cell. This explicates why the lord rejected the painter’s departure in season 3. He needed him by his side, as he had become his pillar. (chapter 85) Baek Na-Kyum represented the foundation of his home. Without him by his side, his “home” would crumble.
Striking in chapter 76, is that because the lord insisted to remain seated, the painter starts enjoying more and more the lord’s embrace, hence his head moves closer to Yoon Seungho’s and at the end he even closes his eyes. From my point of view, this long and tender hug let him sense that the mansion was not truly his home, but the lord. But this was not entirely conscious. The latter has become his family. That’s why he had been longing for his presence and warmth in the last days. (chapter 74) This was a new version of the chapter 51 and 52. And you all know the saying:
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder”
This signifies that since both protagonists found their home, they found a part of their identity. Both protagonist could only become stronger. Thus the readers could assist to the return of the painter and lord’s memories. This is no coincidence that the painter could voice his wishes in front of his lover: (chapter 78) (chapter 84) And it was the same for the lord. That’s the reason why they both argued with each other and with others too. They could now stand on their own, but they still needed the support of the partner.
Under this new perspective, it becomes comprehensible why there was a change in season 3. There, both protagonists learned that home was not a place, but where the heart is. This is no coincidence that Yoon Seungho made the decision to renounce on his possessions, when he had the impression that his “bride” had died. That’s how he learned what home means. It is by his lover’s side, to be in his embrace, and not necessarily the mansion like during the argument exposed it. During the last scene, both protagonists were pushed to recognize that they are now a real family. Yoon Seungho is the painter’s home and it is the same for Baek Na-Kyum. This is perceptible in the final scene: (chapter 102) It doesn’t matter where they are. Home is where the heart is. Hence the first question he has is: (chapter 102) As long as he is by his side, everything is fine. This new definition of home appeared, when the painter and the lord confessed to each other. (chapter 96) (chapter 96) It didn’t matter where they were. Thus they could confess in a gibang. They felt safe together. And this is the same in the mountain. Observe that the painter is not asking why they are in the mountain and what the lord intended to do there. In fact, he was more focused on the past than the present. However, for the painter, home is not just a family, he liked to sleep in a warm bed and have a warm meal each day (chapter 68), since he had lived like a homeless for a while. Hence both will have to look for a real home, a house. Moreover, the lord will have to provide for the painter, and the latter will feel obligated to assist his lover. This means, in season 4, home should have a new definition. It is not just a family, but also the mansion and the country! Don’t forget that many people died in season 3.
6. Yoon Seungho’s bedchamber: a glimpse of his identity
Since I had elaborated above that home was part of an identity and the home would reflect the owner’s personality, I wish to examine Seungho’s bedchamber again. In other words, I will read his room: (doctor frost, chapter 9). What caught my attention is that the lord’s bedchamber is literally empty: There are only one big white vase, a red box, candles (chapter 55) and a windscreen. (chapter 55) The latter shows trees painted in black, there’s barely nature in the end. It mirrors the lord’s symbolic death. The emptiness of his room reflected the lord’s life. He was living like a zombie and avoided emotions, as he had no souvenir at all. Although he reads a lot, you never see them in his room. Why? It is because he separated his spirit from his body. In his bedchamber, he was a captive trapped in the past, hence he had nightmares. Moreover, I think that his bed is the source of his nocturnal panic attacks, as the colors are the same than the king’s. And now, the manhwaphiles can better comprehend why the noble has never considered his mansion a home. In this house, and in this room, he had traumatic experiences (abuse), which were so horrible that he had entirely repressed it. Nonetheless, the moment the painter calls the mansion his home, this has a huge impact on the lord’s life. The latter is now “forced” to consider the mansion as his home too. Hence in the Korean version, we have this panel: Then in season 3, the lord’s bedchamber became the painter’s bedroom too. Thus at the end of season 3, the painter visited the lord’s study in his lord’s absence. (chapter 98) This shows that he had conquered the bed. Season 3 exposes the painter’s conquest of the bedchamber. The turning point took place in chapter 87, when the artist went to the study on his own volition. (chapter 87) I can’t help myself thinking that in season 4, the painter will bring his possessions to the bedchamber for good contrary to season 3. (chapter 79) The music box was brought back to the painter’s studio after the argument. Since the lord bought a music box for Baek Na-Kyum, and the latter treasures this item, it also has a special meaning for the lord too. The music box represents the lord’s heart, but the main lead didn’t grasp the true meaning, until it was too late. So far, the broken music box got neglected after their argument (chapter 85), yet I am still hoping for its return, for the lord had recognized its true signification to the painter afterwards. (chapter 85) But we shouldn’t forget the lord’s Spring poem (chapter 92) Little by little, the lord’s study will be filled with treasures belonging to Baek Na-Kyum which are connected to the noble. This is relevant, because thanks to them, the lord can recall the good moments with the artist. Slowly the lord’s bedroom will become more and more a study. With the arrival of souvenirs, the bedchamber will be filled with life again. This will symbolize that the lord is slowly taking over the bedchamber, and filling his room with things he likes. Where is the orchid? So far, all the nobles had plants in their room: (chapter 43) (chapter 82) Hence I am wondering if Yoon Chang-Hyeon didn’t punish his son by taking away the orchid, when he painted on the servant’s body: (chapter 36).
Through this examination, I could expose that each character had a different definition of home, and their perception of home was never constant. However, I have neglected one figure: Kim. The butler associates home to the mansion and nothing more. He is not even including the staff or the lords. That’s the reason why he is switching alliances all the time. But if he is on the verge of losing his mansion, he will do anything to stay there… like for example betraying Heena. Remember that she sold her brother for his own sake, and she didn’t feel deep remorse, when she saw her wounded brother. She even asked an explanation for his wounds: (chapter 99) This new interpretation leads me to the following observation. In season 4, we will witness a new battle again, and it will be about the ownership of the mansion. Who is the true owner of the propriety? Kim, Yoon Chang-Hyeon, Yoon Seungho or lord Song?
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