Great Expectations is a semiautobiographical Bildungsroman structured in three parts and written in the first person by an adult narrator looking back at his childhood.
There is much of Charles Dickens in this book. Unlike his previous semiautobiographical works, Great Expectations is much darker, and portrays a mostly bitter view of love.
Once for all; I loved her none the less because I knew it, and it had no more influence in restraining me, than if I had devoutly believed her to be human perfection. (ch 29, p. 158)
Even at this point in his life, as it was one of his last books, there was still some optimism in Dickens. There are glimpses of simple happiness in the book—Joe and Biddy, Wemmick and Skiffins, and Herbert Pocket and Clara.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part covers Pip’s young childhood before he got his expectations. It mostly chronicles his abusive upbringing with his sister and the loveable blacksmith Joe. Then Pip meets Miss Havisham and Estella, and eventually is whisked off to London at the behest of some mysterious benefactor to become a gentleman. In the second part, Pip makes a poor attempt at becoming a gentleman, mostly messing around with Herbert Pocket and the gang. He does seem to gain some manners though.
O, that he had never come! That he had left me at the forge—far from contented, yet, by comparison, happy! (ch 39, p. 217)
In the third stage, Pip finds out the whole truth. He was not destined to marry Estella. In some ways, his fortune is of his own making. He was kind to Magwitch, the convict from his childhood, and Magwitch paid him back.
The point of view is first person, from an older Pip’s point of view. This older narrator can look back and describe the events from his impressions. Thus, the reader often knows the importance of things as they take place, because the older Pip is looking back.