Humans deal with traumatic events in their lives in all sorts of ways. The ways people use to “deal” with these events are called defense mechanisms. In The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing, the main character, Darina, uses a defense mechanism of desensitization to emotionally survive the war in Lebanon. Desensitizing oneself means to “extinguish an emotional response to stimuli that formerly induced it” (“desensitize”). Examples of Darina’s numbed emotions are shown many times throughout the novel. It becomes very prominent when she discusses her sex life, childhood punishments, the death of friends and family, and during a game of Russian Roulette.
Darina discusses tragic events in her book in a very matter-of-fact manner. She allows herself no self-pity and hardly discloses her feelings towards any specific occasion. The way she describes situations in her book makes it seem as though she has no emotions at all regarding the subject. For instance, when Darina was locked up in the cell with rats for the second time she wrote about the ordeal almost indifferently. She wrote, “She stopped my ears up with Laughing Cow cheese and then locked me up in the cell with the rats, where I spent many hours. Only this time I didn’t expect Jesus Christ to arrive” (Ch. 5). There was no offering of her feelings as a child locked up in a cell expecting rats to eat at her ears. One could almost imagine the shrug of triviality the author would bestow upon this traumatic event.
Emotion is also absent when the author writes about her sex life, which is otherwise described in great detail. Darina described the time when she broke her own hymen with great detail pertaining to what she did but stopped right after and switched the subject to the war without a word of her feelings towards her “loss of virginity” (Ch. 17). When she discussed her multiple sexual encounters, she did so very nonchalantly. According to Darina, she “made love like a mad women, with anyone anywhere…with brutality that left no room for desire and even less for feeling” (Ch. 18). In the previous passage she admitted her lack of feelings towards her sex life. Around this same time, Darina briefly mentions having to identify the remains of her close peers and family almost every single week. She described the hospital as “the place to go meet everyone” and that it “had replaced the village square” (Ch. 17). Her only mention of how this affected her was by saying that the frequent trips to the morgue inspired a great desire for sex (Ch. 17). Not only did she have to identify remains of her friends and family, but she also witnessed one of her friends kill himself.
Darina’s friend, Ramzi, and Darina were playing Russian Roulette one night after having snorted multiple doses of cocaine throughout the day. Ramzi started a singing a song and pulled the trigger in the middle of the song. His voice was cut off by his own death from the bullet. Darina wrote that “his brains spurted out on my hair. Crumpled in his corner, Hussein was shrieking at the top of his lungs. I picked up the song where Ramzi had left off” (Ch. 19). Once again, she ended her story after the description of events without even giving the reader a glimpse into her feelings towards having her friend’s brain spurt out on her. Sometimes, the only way one can get through tragedy is to pretend that it does not affect oneself. Darina taught herself to erase emotion when going through a traumatic event. The desensitization was a way for her to continue to hold herself together while everything around her was being torn apart by war.