Tale of Two Cities spoilers below the cut for the three people who didn’t read it in high school.
Pretty sure you’re not a bad person. DeFarge is just a badass.
Also it’s just a natural thing to root for the character you find most sympathetic? There are a lot of stories that make you end up rooting for an “evil” or criminal character because they’re the protagonist and you know them best. I didn’t cheer for Madame in that scene, but I can see why someone else would.
I think there’s a lot of variety in how people read A Tale of Two Cities in general, because the characters leave a lot to the imagination. Madame DeFarge is probably one of the more vivid ones, and she’s also just a really interesting person. (She was probably also creepier back when the book was written - the typical literate Victorian probably found her unnatural rather than badass.) People seem to pretty consistently like Carton, but lots of other characters end up getting a few fans for all different reasons. My own first read of the book was unusual because I latched onto Darnay, thinking he’d become some kind of awesome anti-Marquis. (I’ve yet to meet anyone else who liked that character for that reason.) There’s an ensemble cast of loosely-defined characters who are interesting in a variety of different ways, so the reader has a lot of space to decide who to think of as a protagonist, and how to interpret them.
I agree that Miss Pross was probably seen as all the more terrifying by Victorians because she’s a woman. While she might be Madame Defarge’s double insofar as they’re both unfeminine, childless, physically imposing, strong-willed, domineering, forces of nature, etc., in the end she’s driven by love whereas Madame Defarge is driven by vengeance, and that codes her as more of a “real woman.”
Carton is, I think, irresistible to many people for similar reasons as somebody like Heathcliff. He’s not stoic like a Byronic hero, but he is dark, mysterious, brooding, and tormented. We forgive his lack of success, his mopeyness, because it makes him all the more sympathetic—he’s a tortured genius who’s so tortured he doesn’t even get to reap the fruits of his genius. People can be forgiven for wondering why Lucie preferred Charles’s personality, since they’re obviously equally handsome.
That reaction you had to Darnay is awesome and now I’m feeling sad it didn’t pan out. It wouldn’t even have interfered with the plot, since becoming a champion of the people was no guarantee you wouldn’t get axed. (See: Philippe Égalité.)
I think you’re spot-on about why people like Carton. He definitely fits the dark hero archetype. I want to say more but you pretty much said it all XD Ditto with DeFarge and Pross. Maybe Pross was even be meant as a model of the type of childless woman who was still “okay”, in the way people thought at the time? Her motivations are just barely “womanly” enough. Maybe.
Oh my god I’m so glad to see that someone else likes that idea XD I’m (very slowly) working on writing a story around that concept. I hadn’t thought of it before, but I do see how the plot could climax in pretty much the same way - main complication is Charles wants to be with Lucie who wants to be with her father who doesn’t want to be in France. (In my version, I just derailed the whole plot and focused only on the French characters. But I’m still considering ending it with an almost-guillotining. Or actual guillotining. He did say that doing good was worth it even if he died…)