Charlotte Perkins Gilman uses literary devices such as imagery, metaphor, anthropomorphism, and a stream-of-consciousness narrative to depict the journey to self-discovery through the lens of progressive mental illness in The Yellow Wallpaper. The narrator finds self-expression through a fixation on the anthropomorphic transformation of the wallpaper as it parallels her own creative, yet mentally unstable metamorphosis while under the steady authoritarian control of her husband. .
The narrator of the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" moves to the countryside for relaxation to cure a bout of "temporary nervous depression" (Gilman, 302). Her husband John is a highly regarded "physician of high standing" who takes the role of authority in treating her and deciding what is best; he prescribes that she have little to no social interaction and that she stop working (writing) until she is absolutely cured. Within the first couple paragraphs of the text, the narrator questions the authority of her husband stating that his position and standing is "PERHAPS" a reason that she has not gotten better yet. According to William Ames, author of "On Feminism and 'The Yellow Wallpaper', "By late 20th century standards, the behavior of John, the husband, seems eerily inappropriate and restrictive, but was considered quite normal in the 19th century" (The Poet's Forum). John's authority trumps her disregarded voice, tainted by this "nervous depression." Because the narrator's illness is minimized highly by her own husband, whose opinion is highly regarded, willingness to listen to the patient's own experience and thoughts on the illness is slim to none. The inferiority of the narrator in the marriage is blatantly and clearly mirrored in the setting in which she resides during her treatment. The narrator stays in a shabby room that had previous use as a nursery.