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If one dies in limbo, one would wake up in reality. But after Ariadne and Fischer jumped off the building and left Cobb behind, they woke up in the previous level, not in reality. Why?

There's a few possible answers:  

(1) It's not actually limbo, but a 4th level of the dream as dreamed by Cobb and perceived as limbo (although this is highly unlikely if Fischer is dead in the 3rd level, and therefore wouldn't be anywhere but Limbo ... though he might just be unconscious).

(2) Neither Fischer nor Adriane actually die in limbo: they both are given a kick.  It's the sensation of falling from a great height that causes them to wake up in the 3rd level, not the sudden stop at the end.

This is consistent with the movie. Ariadne says they will follow Fischer, and when the music starts they will give him a kick and Eames is to shock his heart simultaneously. Then, when the fortress blows up she and Cobb will "ride the kicks up." Nothing is said about dying or killing in Limbo. Of course Cobb stays behind and Cobb and Mr. Saito later do return, but not by riding the kicks but by returning straight to the airplane, most likely after the sedative had already worn off.

(3) If you die in limbo you don't immediately wake up: you return to the level you 'died' on (and in Adriane's case, not being dead in level 3, it's the kick of 'dying' or 'falling' on the lowest possible level that pushes her up only one level).  (For this to be the case, then both Cobb and Saito would have returned to the first level of the dream before waking up, although they could probably wake in their entirety because at that point the sedative is no longer in effect).

(4) You only jump up one level from Limbo. Limbo is deep down, so Cobb and Mal did not returned to reality after the train crash, but rather they woke up in another dream level. Mal was right!

pleasestopthisnow provided an answer 2011-03-04 22:19:52 UTC view / hide
Anon_241 asked the question 2011-03-04 22:19:52 UTC view / hide
Steven Parry improved the answer 2011-10-04 22:21:04 UTC view / hide

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