Although the novel is written in first person, the reader knows - as an essential prerequisite – that Great Expectations is not an autobiography but a novel, a work of fiction with plot and characters, including a narrator-protagonist and pure virtual creations of Dickens's imagination that, by the mere virtuosity of his words, remains the real master of the game and alone orchestrates the subtle complexity of the different strata of speech.
In addition, as Sylvère Monod pointed out, the treatment of the autobiography differs from David Copperfield. Great Expectations does not draw from events in Dickens's life; "at most some traces of a broad psychological and moral introspection can be found".
However, according to Paul Pickrel's analysis, Pip is both narrator and protagonist; as such, he recounts with hindsight the story of the young boy he was, who did not know the world beyond a narrow geographic and familial environment. The novel's direction emerges from the confrontation between the two layers of time. At first, the novel presents a mistreated orphan, repeating situations from Oliver Twist and David Copperfield, but the trope is quickly overtaken. The theme manifests when Pip discovers the existence of a world beyond the marsh, the forge and the future Joe envisioned for him, the decisive moment when Miss Havisham and Estella enter his life. This is a red herring, as the decay of Satis House and the strange lady within signals the fragility of an impasse. At this point, the reader knows more than the protagonist, creating dramatic irony that confers a superiority that the narrator shares.
It is not until Magwitch's return, a plot twist that unites loosely-connected plot elements and sets them into motion, that the protagonist's point of view joins those of the narrator and the reader. In this context of progressive revelation, the sensational events at the novel's end serve to test the protagonist's point of view. Thus proceeds, in the words of A. E. Dyson, "The Immolations of Pip".