No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine.

This is the first line of the novel. By referring to Catherine as a heroine, Austen forces us to recognize that we are reading a novel. Most of Austen's other novels simply drop the reader into the story, and never refer to such main characters as Emma Woodhouse or Elizabeth Bennett as heroines. Northanger Abbey remarks on its own identity as a novel, in part because the fiction- loving Catherine sees herself as the heroine in a novel. From this first sentence on, the narrator notes the gap between how things should be in the ideal life of a fictional heroine, how things actually are for the flawed Catherine. Northanger Abbey is partly a parody of Gothic novels, but Austen's story is realistic, and ironic humor comes from trying examining ordinary events and people from the perspective of a "heroic" novel.