I've watched The Dark Knight Rises numerous times, and I always figured the pit ascension scene was fairly straightforward. Bruce doesn't fear anything, so in order he needs to make the final jump he needs to fear that he'll fail. And the only way to fear that he'll fail is to jump without the rope so that he'll actually die if he fails, giving himself that extra push to make it to the ledge.

However, I was speaking with somebody who offered a completely opposite, but also tempting, explanation of the scene. Bruce wears the rope because he is afraid and taking the rope off symbolizes that he no longer fears the climb since he knows he'll succeed. In this sense, rather than requiring Bruce to feel fear, he needs to overcome his stated fear of failing to save his city that he shares in the pit with the blind old man.

And what's bugging me is that, despite both readings being completely opposite, I can't really discount his reading. And it feels like both readings could be conceivable when considered in the movie's dichotomy of fear vs. recklessness and in the greater series' themes of fear as a means of power and control. Bruce learns that fearlessness is what caused him to fail in his fight with Bane and learns to fear again to give him that extra oomph against Bane. Or, Bruce overcomes his true fear of failure that he was carrying with him into the pit and uses the recklessness of his newfound outlook on the fight to fight with bane, on account of he didn't seem to act particularly fearful when he was slugging Bane on the streets in broad daylight versus methodically skulking around in the shadows of the sewers.

Is either reading correct or confirmed in any way?

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I think that your two interpretations are not as contradictory as you think. They are each part of the whole truth. Your fundamental mistake is you have confused the conquering of fear with the absence of fear.

There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The True courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum

Batman wears the rope because he is afraid that he will fall and die, and the rope protects him from that danger. This fear makes him hesitate, because subconsciously the further he jumps the more danger he is in.

When Batman jumps without the rope, now the greatest danger is from falling short rather than falling too far. Now his fear propels him onward, rather than holding him back.

Batman is never fearless. But he moves from letting his fear control him to instead controlling and using his fear. He turns it into a weapon that he can use, rather than letting it be used against him.

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