Great Expectations is first and foremost a Bildungsroman, or coming-of age-novel. The reader follows the journey of Philip "Pip" Pirrip, the protagonist, as he grows from a child to a man and moves from experience to inexperience through various trials, successes, and rites of passage. This genre was very characteristic of the late 18th and early 19th century and aligns with the rapid modernization and globalization of the world following the Industrial Revolution.
This novel is also an example of the author's own idiosyncratic combination of satirical and realist writing. While some elements of plot and interaction are exaggerated to lampoon elements of society, others are represented in a way that encourages the reader's immersion and emotional investment in the story. The environments and political problems in the novel are realist ones: the characters and events often wacky and unrealistic. Dickens uses satire to make the reader laugh, but also as a mode of political commentary. He was very invested in bettering the situation of the poor people of England, agitating for political and educational reform and an end to the hypocrisies of British government for much of his adult life. Many of his novels poke fun at politicians, lawyers, bankers, and aristocrats as a way of pointing out the inequities many British people suffered under.
Great Expectations is also one of the most historically successful examples of serial fiction. Every single one of Dickens's novels was published in this format, in which installments of the story were published at regular intervals to tantalize his audience and provoke buzz and excitement. This one was first published as a weekly serial in the periodical Dickens owned and ran called All The Year Round from 1860–1861, and then again as three collected volumes in 1861.