Study Guide

Spider-Man Ben and May Parker (Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris)

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Ben and May Parker (Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris)

In a word, Ben and May Parker are adorable.

In two more words, Uncle Ben and Aunt May are Peter's foundation.

They're his surrogate parents, and they love him fiercely. Aunt May is caring, warm, and more canny than Peter gives her credit for. Take this exchange, for example, where Peter discusses—gasp!—girls with his aunt. He's talking about M.J. here (obvi):

PETER: She doesn't really know who I am.

AUNT MAY: Because you won't let her. You're so mysterious all the time. Tell me, would it be so dangerous to let Mary Jane know how much you care? Everybody else knows.

And that's just the tip of the shrewd iceberg.

In an earlier scene, Aunt May pretends to sleep while Peter and Mary Jane have an intimate, heart-to-heart conversation that results in them—double gasp!—holding hands. She can't resist opening one eye to take a peek now and then, though. What we're saying is, don't let the white hair and grandma garb fool you: May knows what's up.

Uncle Ben does, too, especially when it comes to dishing out helpful advice and being an all-around noble guy. Check out this exchange between Uncle Ben and Peter:

PETER: I didn't start that fight; I told you that.

UNCLE BEN: You sure as hell finished it.

PETER: What was I supposed to do? Run away?

UNCLE BEN: No, you're not supposed to run away, but—Pete, look. You're changing. I know; I went through exactly the same thing at your age.

PETER: No, not exactly.

UNCLE BEN: Peter, these are the years when a man changes into the man he's gonna become the rest of his life. Just be careful who you change into. [...] Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.

This turns out to be the last conversation that Uncle Ben ever has with Peter, but its message is a doozy: "with great power comes great responsibility." Words to live by, right? Peter sure thinks so.

That becomes his unofficial motto, an idea so important to him that he repeats it at the end of the film, too:

PETER (voice-over): Whatever life holds in store for me, I will never forget these words: "with great power comes great responsibility." This is my gift. My curse. Who am I? I'm Spider-Man.

Uncle Ben's words resonate with Peter not because he feels guilty about his role in Uncle Ben's death, but because it's good advice.

That's not to say that Uncle Ben's death doesn't rock Peter to the core—Ben was more than just a loving uncle. He was the source of Peter's moral code. He was his motivation to always do the right thing, not the easy thing. He was his role model for what it means to be an honorable man.

And, as Peter tells the Green Goblin, he was his father.

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