How do Macbeth and Winston Smith ("1984") pretend for the benefit of others?

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luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Macbeth says in the final line of Act 1 (Sc. 7), "False face must hide what the false heart doth know."  He means that he has to put on the appearance of being friendly and being a good host to Duncan, the king, who has come to honor Macbeth with a visit.  Macbeth and his wife have just plotted to kill Duncan, though, that very night.  The play, "Macbeth", is very concerned with deception.  Not only does Macbeth deceive Duncan and many others, the witches deceive Macbeth with their prophecies and their visions.  This deception ultimately leads to Macbeth's death.  Macbeth's ambition is what leads him to begin practicing the deceptions.

With Winston Smith, in "1984", deception isn't carried out for personal gain so much as it is carried out for personal safety.  In the futuristic world created by George Orwell, Big Brother is everywhere and knows what everyone is doing and thinking.  Winston despises Big Brother (the government) and so must make them believe that he is a loyal Party member or risk being tortured and killed.  In the first part of the novel, he surrepticiously writes in his diary, in what he believes is an area where the always-watching telescreen can't see him, "Down with Big Brother".  In order for a person to stay alive in the world of "1984", the person must be a loyal Party member and must never hint of any anarchy.

Both works, "Macbeth" and "1984" deal with deception, but the purpose behind its use by the main characters is very different. Macbeth uses deception for personal gain and Winston Smith uses it to stay alive and avoid becoming a "non person".