What ethnicity is Marie in The Stranger?

Camus forces the reader to speculate on Marie's ethnicity in The Stranger. Her surname is Spanish or Catalan, while her first name is French. It can be reasoned that Marie Cardona might have both French and Spanish or Catalan ancestry, as both France and Spain were involved in the colonization of Algeria.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Because the narrator, Meursault, does not explicitly assign an ethnicity to Marie, readers must look to her name and the novel's setting for clues.

The novel takes place in Algeria between the First and Second World Wars. Beginning in 1830, the French colonized much of Algeria. By 1848, much of...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Because the narrator, Meursault, does not explicitly assign an ethnicity to Marie, readers must look to her name and the novel's setting for clues.

The novel takes place in Algeria between the First and Second World Wars. Beginning in 1830, the French colonized much of Algeria. By 1848, much of the country was under the control of the so-called French Second Republic. Around eight years later, Muslims and Jews living in Algeria were subjects of France rather than Algerian citizens. That being said, many of the colonizers were not exclusively French; their ranks included other Europeans who were ethnically Spanish, Italian, and Maltese. A large portion of the population was also Arab. Thus, the country in which Meursault and Marie are living is ethnically diverse.

The name Marie is, generally speaking, thought of as French. It is not Maria, which would suggest Spanish or Italian heritage. Her surname, Cardona, is of Spanish or Catalan derivation, Catalonia being a region of Spain. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Marie is ethnically French and Spanish or Catalan. Meursault describes her on the beach as having sun-darkened skin, which would suggest a Mediterranean complexion.

Finally, the name Marie means "of the sea," which is interesting because much of the interaction between Meursault and Marie takes place on the beach and in the sea on their brief holiday.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on