Chapter 33 Summary

During her stay in New York, Jo writes often to her family. The first letter takes the form of a journal, recording her experiences every day for the first week.

When Jo arrives at her new home, she receives a kind welcome from her employer, Mrs. Kirke. As the days pass, Jo meets the children she is supposed to teach, two little girls named Kitty and Minnie, and discovers that most residents in the boarding house look down on her for being a governess. She dismisses these haughty people and focuses on befriending the few residents who seem nice.

One of Jo’s new friends is Miss Norton, a gentlewoman who invites Jo to accompany her to concerts and lectures. Jo knows that that this offer is an act of charity, but she is no longer inclined to spurn favors. She accepts Miss Norton's invitation and is glad for the opportunity.

The most important of Jo’s new friends is Professor Bhaer, a poor but highly educated German man. On her first day in her new home, she sees him help a little serving girl by carrying a heavy bundle of coal upstairs. This impresses Jo, who subscribes to her father’s belief that “trifles show character.” Professor Bhaer gives German lessons in the room next door to Jo’s schoolroom, and she makes a habit of spying on him. He is kind, patient, and gentle with all of the children he knows, who clearly love him dearly.

In a second letter written a few weeks later, Jo tells Beth more about Professor Bhaer. He has no woman in his life to darn his socks for him, so he has been doing it—very poorly—himself. Jo secretly takes over this job for him, but he catches her at it and demands that she accept German lessons as payment for the favor. She agrees, but the first lessons go badly because she does not understand the grammar. Professor Bhaer soon gives up on grammar and teaches her through German fairy tales. This suits her much better, and her German improves rapidly.

At the New Year, Jo sends a third letter. In it, she comments on how happy she was to receive a Christmas package full of homemade gifts from her family. She says that Professor Bhaer has given her his personal copy of the complete works of Shakespeare and that she gave him a number of small, pretty objects for his room. She ends her letter by saying that she is enjoying her new life in New York and that she is learning and growing as she hoped she would.