What is the plot of this story "No One's a Mystery" by Elizabeth Tallent? 

Expert Answers
carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story begins innocently with an eighteen year old girl receiving a diary for her birthday.  Elizabeth Tallant’s “No One’s a Mystery” portrays a scandalous affair between an older married man and this young girl. 

The narration of the story is first person  with the main character as the unnamed narrator. Jack, her lover, is a married man. Her naivete clouds her judgment.  She overlooks the fact that Jack almost promises her a future with him, but not quite. 

The Exposition

Jack gives the gift. As soon as she opens it, Jack sees his wife driving toward them.  He unceremoniously pushes her down in the floorboard so that his wife cannot see the girl. As the girl is held down, she examines what Jack has in the floor of his truck.

Rising Action

It was his wife’s car.  Evidently, he is annoyed by almost everything that his wife does. The husband and wife acknowledge each other as they pass in their cars. The narrator tells the reader that they have been drinking tequila, and Jack has the bottle sitting between his legs up against his crotch.  There is definitely a sexual component between the two characters.

The music playing on the radio is “Nobody’s into me, no one’s mystery?”  The girl comments on the number of pop tarts on the floor and a child could cut his foot.  Sarcastically, Jack tells her she sounds just like a kid herself.  He tells the narrator that she can get up off the floor.

Another discussion ensues about what the girl’s first entry in the diary will be. 

Jack suggests: Tonight you’ll write, ‘This is my birthday present from him.  I can’t imagine anybody loving anybody more than I love Jack.’

In a year, she will write that Jack taught her everything about sex.

In two years, you’ll write I wonder what that old guy’s name was, the one with the curly hair and the filthy dirty pickup truck…

Her version is a little different than his. She will write his first entry.

In one year, she will say that they are now married. She is preparing his supper. Jack makes the comment that it must have been a quick divorce.

In two years, she will write in her diary that they now have a child named little Jack. 

In three years, she will write that her breasts are sore from nursing their daughter, whose breath smells like vanilla.

The Climax

The narrator asks Jack which version of the diary does he like.  He chooses hers, but he believes the version that he suggested.

Falling action

The narrator says that it does not matter.  He tells her that in her heart she knows that what she writes in her diary will not happen. She tells him that he is wrong.


Jack emphasizes again that her version will not happen.  He tells the narrator that their daughter’s breath would smell like the narrator’s milk and that it would smell bittersweet.

The word bittersweet implies that their affair may be coming to an end.  The definition of the word indicates a pleasant yet painful memory.

The proposed diary entries send the message that she hopes that he will divorce his wife;  then, he will start a new life  with her.  Their life will be filled with domestic bliss, love, and  happiness.  They will have wonderful children.

On the other hand, Jack apparently does not believe that this will happen.  Although indicating that he is not happy with his wife, he makes the narrator no promises about the future; rather, he indicates that he does not believe that her version will come true.  

Read the study guide:
No One's a Mystery

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question