Typical of sentimental fiction, The Man of Feeling is fragmented; chapters and passages are missing, although this is contrived, as the narrative is still comprehensible. Mackenzie highlights these absences, by implying the contents of the non-existent chapters, by chapter numbering (indicating gaps) or through the sudden introduction of characters: "Peter stood at the door. We have mentioned this faithful fellow formerly". The fragmentary nature of the text narrates "the sensibility that is inevitably expressed in moments." It allows for elisions and hiatuses, so that content not evoking the sentimental can be excluded from the text entirely. The transient nature of manuscript itself is further alluded to in the Introduction; the manuscript depicting Harley's life is being used as wadding for the curate's gun. Harley's aunt also employs a book to help fold her linen.
The Man of Feeling has been viewed as a picaresque novel, but this is inaccurate as Harley himself is not “a roguish hero of low social class who lives by his wits in a corrupt society”, although he does meet figures within the novel that could qualify as picaresque characters.