No One's a Mystery Analysis
by Elizabeth Tallent

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No One's a Mystery Analysis

It's pretty cynical to think "no one's a mystery," that there is no reason to really get to know someone because there simply isn't anything deeper than what is initially conveyed. This is what seems to make the gift of the five-year diary with a tiny key which is "as light as a dime" seem so symbolic. It is, first of all, a rather juvenile gift to give an eighteen year old, but the fact that the key doesn't even seem to work in the lock and is so flimsily made means that the young woman to whom it's given will not even be able to lock her personal writings away. After all, if "no one's a mystery," then there's no real reason to try to hide one's thoughts. Jack, for example, correctly guesses what the girl will write in the diary tonight—that she loves him so much and cannot imagine loving anyone else—and he believes he knows what she will write in one or two year's time. She disagrees with him, but he seems to be correct about his own wife's thoughts and feelings (and how completely oblivious she is to his affair, what she will or won't believe or do), and this makes it seem as though he will likely be correct about the young woman's thoughts as well. We see, then, that Jack is probably right, as is Rosanne Cash.

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story succeeds in capturing the intensity of the moment by a shrewd, deliber-ate economy of expression. In less than twenty-five hundred words Elizabeth Tallent delineates the action and the motives through a careful use of detail and language. When the narrator describes the five-year diary Jack has given her, she notes that it is “light as a dime.” She means the expression to be a compliment—the diary is easy and convenient—but Tallent has skillfully converted the narrator’s praise of the diary into a moral assessment of the relationship. It certainly is light for Jack, who has no intentions toward the narrator other than sexual play.

The title is another example of the fine choices of language that characterize the story. The title is from a song by Roseanne Cash, recorded in 1983. “No One’s a Mystery” refers to the singer’s refusal to get involved, to fall in love. Jack’s choice of the song on his tape deck suggests that he, too, is...

(The entire section is 593 words.)