Discuss the relationship between Neil and June in The Secret Life of Bees.  What do you think might be the root of their issues?  

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The relationship between Neil and June is an uneasy one, in spite of the fact that they clearly love one another.  This is largely because of June, who is a very well-defended and mistrusting character.

June was jilted at the altar several years before by a man named Melvin Edwards.  She has sworn she will never get married. She does not want to take any chances, ever again, on love.  August tells her,

Ever since Melvin Edwards backed out of your wedding all those years back, you've been afraid of love, refusing to take a chance (211). 

Neil is growing tired of asking June to marry him and being turned down, and he, too, asks her, "What are you scared of?" (132). He has asked her many times, and she persists in saying she will never marry. What she is afraid of is being hurt.  

Finally, when May kills herself, she leaves a note to August and June, saying, "...it's your time to live. Don't mess it up" (210). This message is meant particularly for June, who has not been living completely, afraid to love because she was once hurt. When Neil asks her to marry him "for the hundredth time" (222), June realizes finally that May was right, that she needs to live a full and loving life. 

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The Secret Life of Bees

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