In the book The Secret Life of Bees, what are three possible reasons why June rejects Neil every time he asks her to marry him?

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haleyann906 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees, June Boatwright proves to be a very complex character. One of these complications revolves around her relationship with Neil. Despite Neil being a supportive and caring partner, June consistently rejects his marriage proposals. The largest reason for her rejections (and the only motive that readers are explicitly told) is that when June was younger she was left at the altar by a former love. Understandably, June’s negative experience makes her wary of future romantic relationships. Another possible reason for her refusal to marry Neil lies in her identity as a feminist. As an unmarried, middle-aged woman who is also college-educated and financially independent, June defies the expectations for women in that time. Due to these facts, one could argue that it simply goes against her personal inclinations to become dependent on a man. A third reason for her refusals could lie in her obligations to take care of the emotionally unstable May. If she were to marry Neil, it would be unlikely for them to stay in the Boatwright house. This would leave the burden of May’s care on August, and as we see on multiple occasions, sustaining May’s fragile mental balance isn't exactly a one-person job. This last reason might also explain why June is able to finally accept Neil’s proposal after May dies.

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The Secret Life of Bees

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