In Virginia Woolf’s, Mrs Dalloway, (1925) Woolf comments on the city and its perception. Woolf seems to argue that surveillance is positive in its attribution to an organic city of London that is pure and natural. Can surveillance be a positive thing? Or is it too overpowering in its gaze?
Woolf shapes her readers way of seeing in the novel and challenges her readers to deconstruct a cognitive process of thinking. This can be seen in the 3rd person narration, which shows an unbroken stream of consciousness. For example, in the opening of the novel we are introduced to Clarissa Dalloway, “What a plunge! […] with a little squeak of the hinges, […] she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air.” (5) Here the windows are seen as being open to the stream of consciousness, which opens up her memories and her perceptions of things in the past. Woolf suggests that everyone in the city is being watched, thus having no privacy. All the characters seem to know one another, or know each other’s business, which shows a connectedness, attributed to the function of Victorian Literature. This can be seen in the novel through the organic and natural imagery, which is woven into the world of connectedness. For example, this can be seen as, “a single spider’s thread after wavering here and thereattach[ing] itself to the point of a leaf” (144) which shows the nature backdrop against the city environment showing spider webs of surveillance. This seems to suggest that there is a positive and natural element to surveillance.