"Consider Charles Dickens’ self-effacing pronouncement at the beginning of David Copperfield —“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show” —with the third-person introduction in Northanger Abbey: “No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine.” The quality of effacement is still present, but the embedded ironies are manifold. Implicit is the apparent truism that proper heroines are marked by the circumstances of their birth, their faces, and the characters of their parents, and that any reader worth her salt will accept such heroic prerequisites as a matter of course. “Thin” or “sallow” girls, we learn, are not usually destined for heroism. The sustained archness of this miniature biography contains snatches of the Juvenilia’s surrealism: the benign characteristics of Catherine’s father are enumerated and then undercut by a non sequitur, “a very respectable man, though his name was Richard.” The circularity of this mode of knowing narration culminates, of course, in tautology: “But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way.”"
— Taken from: Jane Austen’s Trivial Pursuits, by Ted Scheinmen.