In this chapter, we read about Jo's adventures as she begins her summer in New York. It seems that the boarding house is a bit of a change for her; it is big and full of strangers, she does have some homesickness and mainly keeps to herself and really only talks to Mrs. Kirke and the kids she's teaching. However, Jo is still Jo and she takes great interest in her surroundings and finds pleasure in "people watching"; the most interesting tenant is Professor Friedrich Bhaer.
Considering our recent discussions about who we think Jo should marry, I admit I paid extra attention to the descriptions of Professor Bhaer that Jo used. He intrigues her; he's intelligent and humble. She thinks very highly of him.
I also find it interesting that, while we don't see any letters that others send to Jo, she does comment on things she has received and it seems that Laurie has gone silent for the summer and doesn't write to her at all while she is away. Is he silent because he's so absorbed in throwing himself into his studies, in "fixing" himself for her? Is he just so certain that she'll come around that he doesn't bother to write?
Jo begins publishing more of her "trash", and she is not proud of her work, but saves her money and plans grand things for Beth. She rationalizes that, since the money will be spent on good things, it's ok that she writes things that she's ashamed to put her name on. Also, while she didn't notice the subtle changes, writing that stuff, looking for the drama in people, altered the way Jo looked at others, and at life. And not for the better. It is only when she discovers that The Professor doesn't approve that she stops churning out the "sensational" stories and stops writing, temporarily, to ponder what better options and subject matters are out there.
In this chapter we get a deeper glimpse into The Professor's character. He is wise, and sees much.. but he is gentle with his guidance; he inspires Jo to be a better person.
At the end of the chapter, having seen a lot and grown up significantly, Jo returns home.
This was a rough chapter to read. It was so sad to me to watch Laurie try so hard, feel so strongly, and leave unsuccessful. Still.. I think that Jo was very wise (and brave) to say no, and stick with it.
In an attempt to win Jo's love, Laurie changed many of his behaviors (the ones which Jo disliked). He said, "I worked hard to please you, and I gave up billiards and everything you didn't like, and waited and never complained, for I hoped you'd love me..."
Changing one's behaviors drastically to win over another is a major red-flag to me. While I do think some of those behaviors were best stopped, it wasn't that he was changing and becoming a better man, he simply had an objective and goal that he wished to achieve and altered his behaviors to achieve that. I don't think that there is much substance in his rash promise that "If you loved me, Jo, I should be a perfect saint, for you could make me anything you like." Also, getting married because "Everyone expects it. Grandpa has set his heart upon it, your people like it, and I can't get on without you. Say you will, and let's be happy. Do, do!" would only lead to unhappiness down the road.
To me, Laurie seems to very immature in his thinking in a lot of ways. He's always gotten what he's wanted by being charming and persuasive. He's not a bad guy by any means, but he's not settled in a steady course; he still goes wherever the wind blows him. I think that lots of people want the best for Laurie: His grandfather, all of the Marches, and they offer advice and direction which he frequently takes, but ultimately, I don't think Laurie really knows what Laurie wants out of life, yet.
It made my heart ache to read about Laurie's struggles after that; as he wrestled with the emotions of a broken heart. Unrequited love is never fun. However, I applaud Jo in her wisdom and being firm in what she knew was right. In that, I believe, she saved them both from much worse heartache later.