The book consists of 32 chapters which fall into three parts:
- chapter 1 – 3: beginning
- chapter 4 – 29: main part
- chapter 30 – 32: ending
Chapter 17, when Olivia is reported to be fled, can be regarded as the climax as well as an essential turning point of the novel. From chapter 17 onwards it changes from a comical account of 18th-century country life into a pathetic melodrama with didactic traits.
There are quite a few interpolations of different literary genres, such as poems, histories or sermons, which widen the restricted view of the first person narrator and serve as didactic fables.
The novel can be regarded as a fictitious memoir, as it is told by the vicar himself by retrospection.