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Study Guide: Great Expectations: Form, structure and language

Study Guide: Great Expectations

Use of form

The 'form' of a text is its type and genre. Great Expectations is a novel (type) written in the Bildungsroman tradition (genre).

First-person viewpoint

Great Expectations follows Pip's journey from a poor childhood into privileged adulthood and looks at the power that money and social class have to change him as he grows up. As Charles Dickens uses a first-person narrative in this book, it is important to remember that the events that happen and all the other characters are seen through Pip's eyes and that this may affect our views of them. It is also written in past tense and with hindsight. This means that the reader and the narrator (an older, wiser Pip) both know more than the younger Pip who is experiencing the events of the novel read more...

Use of structure

The structure of a text refers to the way in which events are organised inside the novel as a whole. In the case of Great Expectations, the structure is chronological where events are told to the reader in the order in which they have happened. However, the structure is also that of a flashback where the older and wiser Pip looks back at his earlier life.


Before being published as a complete novel in 1861, Great Expectations first appeared in serial form in a weekly magazine. To make sure that his readers kept coming back for more, Dickens often used cliffhanger endings for each part to keep the audience guessing as to what might happen next. It is a technique that is often used today in soap operas read more...

Use of language

Use of language in Great Expectations

Language refers to the choices of style and vocabulary made by the author. When analysing the language Dickens uses you should think about:

What? The author's choice of specific words and literary devices.

Where/how? The way in which the author uses them.

Why? The effect on the reader.

Charles Dickens makes very specific use of language to help us understand and appreciate the plot, character and themes of Great Expectations.

Evidence and explanation of the language used

Here are some examples of language choices which Dickens makes. Let's concentrate on character names and literary devices such as animal imagery. read more...

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