If I Stay

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Denny Hall (Dad) Character Analysis

Denny is Mia’s Dad. He and Mia’s Mom married when they were twenty-three, and had Mia soon after. Teddy was born ten years later. Denny is a middle-school English teacher—though he played guitar and wrote songs for a popular local band for many years, he quit when Teddy was born in order to spend more time with his family. Though Denny’s friend Henry becomes angry with him for leaving the band, he maintains that his family will always come first, and that he was making an obvious choice, not a sacrifice. Once Dad and Mom recognize that Mia has a true gift with the cello, he works to support her passion, and finds her a teacher to study with, his friend Professor Christie.

Denny Hall (Dad) Quotes in If I Stay

The If I Stay quotes below are all either spoken by Denny Hall (Dad) or refer to Denny Hall (Dad). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Sacrifice and Choice Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Speak edition of If I Stay published in 2010.
7:09 AM Quotes

I know it’s silly but I have always wondered if Dad is disappointed that I didn’t become a rock chick. I’d meant to. Then, in third grade, I’d wandered over to the cello in music class—it looked almost human to me. It looked like if you played it, it would tell you secrets, so I started playing. It’s been almost ten years now and I haven’t stopped.

Related Characters: Mia Hall (speaker), Denny Hall (Dad)
Related Symbols: The Cello, Punk Rock and Classical Music
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

Hearing Teddy banging on his drums upstairs, Mia thinks about her family's relationship to music. Though her parents met through the punk rock music scene of the Pacific Northwest in their twenties, Mia has always been drawn to classical music. In this quote, she describes how she was drawn to the mysterious shape of the cello in the third grade, and has never looked back since. Even though Mia is very close to her family, she often wonders how she, a dark-haired classical music lover, ended up in a family of fair-haired punk rockers. A quiet, intense musician, she occasionally feels out of place among her outgoing family members. Here, she implies that her father may be prouder of Teddy's musical skills if he uses them for rock rather than classical music, like she does. She loves her family, and they are all musically talented, but Mia still feels somewhat out of place and different.

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8:17 AM Quotes

As usual, there is a battle for stereo dominance. Mom wants NPR. Dad wants Frank Sinatra. Teddy wants SpongeBob SquarePants. I want the classical-music station, but recognizing that I’m the only classical fan in the family, I am willing to compromise with Shooting Star.

Related Characters: Mia Hall (speaker), Kat Hall (Mom) , Denny Hall (Dad), Teddy Hall
Related Symbols: Punk Rock and Classical Music
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:
With a free day off from school and work due to the snow, Mia's family decides to visit family friends Willow and Henry. In the car, they debate over what music to listen to during the drive. While everyone in the family loves music, they often dispute over what kinds of music to listen to, as represented in this quote—one of many instances of choice in terms of music, and compromise in terms of harmony. As shown in this example, the family members are close enough that they are always willing to compromise. In this quote, the compromise is Shooting Star, the local band that Mia's boyfriend Adam plays in. This instance is representative of the harmony that the family maintains in nearly every situation, despite their varying preferences. 
9:23 AM Quotes

I was still scared, but it was somehow comforting to think that maybe stage fright was a trait I’d inherited from Dad; I wasn’t just some foundling, after all.

Related Characters: Mia Hall (speaker), Denny Hall (Dad)
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:
Mia thinks back to her first cello recital many years ago. Scared of performing on stage, her father comforted Mia by telling her that when he performed in his own band, he, too, had crippling stage fright. Knowing that she and Dad share this trait comforts Mia, who has long been concerned about how her musical tastes, personality, and appearance differ from her parents'. While they are fair-haired and like punk music, Mia is dark-haired and prefers to play the cello. She finds enough comfort in having this shared fear with her father to have the courage to perform in the recital. This quote is representative of the fact that even though Mia is sometimes concerned with how different she is from her immediate family members, they support her in whatever she pursues. 
10:40 PM Quotes

“In my ideal scenario, my bighearted pushover husband and I die quickly and simultaneously when we’re ninety-two years old…Mia plays at our funeral. If, that is, we can tear her away from the New York Philharmonic.”

Related Characters: Kat Hall (Mom) (speaker), Mia Hall, Denny Hall (Dad)
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:

In the car on the way home from a funeral, Mia's family begins to discuss what kind of funerals they hope to have one day. In this quote, Mom notes that she hopes to die at the same time as Dad, and to have Mia play for the funeral. This quote is one of morbid foreshadowing to the crash that is to happen years later: Mom and Dad do die at the same time, and if Mia decides to stay, there is a possibility that she would play at the funeral. This particular memory highlights the often dark irony of life—Mom will perhaps get her wish for her funeral, though several decades prior to when she hoped she would die. Mia recalls this conversation as she weighs the pros and cons of staying or leaving, because it represents how fleeting life can be—someone as vivacious as Mom can be here one moment, and gone in the blink of an eye. 

Dad was wrong. It’s true you might not get to control your funeral, but sometimes you do get to choose your death.

Related Characters: Mia Hall (speaker), Denny Hall (Dad)
Page Number: 173
Explanation and Analysis:
While in the car on the way back from a family friend's funeral, Mom is furious about the sentimental and religious nature of the service. She believes that the friend, who was an atheist, would have been very upset at the funeral his family set up for him. Dad gently counters Mom and points out that no one gets to choose how their funeral goes, since it only happens after they are gone. In this quote, Mia recalls Dad's words in the course of her decision whether to stay or to leave the world of the living. Once she realizes the terms of her coma—it is her choice whether she will join her parents in death, or to wake up and continue living—she thinks about the humorous, if morbid, conversation in which she and her family discussed their funerals. For all their talk of death, Mia never thought that she would have any say about when or how she would die. In remembering an instance when she realized her father was wrong about the terms of life and death, Mia further realizes how this choice is entirely her decision—a moment of growth, and separation, from the world in which she relied on the advice of her parents. 
2:48 AM Quotes

“I’d played that part of my life out. It was time. I didn’t even think twice about it, in spite of what Gramps or Henry might think. Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you. Does that make any sense?”

Related Characters: Denny Hall (Dad) (speaker), Gramps , Henry
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

When Teddy is born, Dad makes the decision to leave the rock band that he has played in for many years. This makes his best friend who is also in the band, Henry, very angry with him. It also makes Gramps, who loved listening to Dad's music, very sad as well. In this quote, Dad responds to Mia's question as to why he made this decision. Dad explains to Mia that for him, it wasn't even a decision—it was simply time for him to move on with his life, and focus on his family and being a good father to Mia and Teddy. In the course of making her decision whether to stay or to leave, Mia recalls this conversation because of Dad's quip that "sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you." Here he means that sometimes in life, we don't have a choice in what happens, and it is up to us to make the most of a bad situation so one situation doesn't change us completely. When Mia decides to stay, it is ultimately because of an outpouring of love that has shown her that she must go on living in order to keep the memories of her family alive, and to see where the future takes her. 

5:42 AM Quotes

So I played. And even though you wouldn’t think it, the cello didn’t sound half bad with all those guitars. In fact, it sounded pretty amazing.

Related Characters: Mia Hall (speaker), Adam Wilde, Denny Hall (Dad)
Related Symbols: The Cello, Punk Rock and Classical Music
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Mia recalls an impromptu party that her family threw one Labor Day. Neighbors and friends come over, and they enjoy barbecue and watermelon together. Later in the evening, Dad and Adam begin to jam on their guitars together. They implore Mia to join them, and begrudgingly, she agrees. Though she is concerned at first that the different instruments won't sound good together, she is surprised to realize how great the two string instruments sound in harmony. This incident is a metaphor for Mia's relationship to both her parents and Adam in terms of musical taste. Though Adam, Mom, and Dad are all big fans of punk rock music, Mia prefers classical music above anything else, though she does enjoy Adam's band, Shooting Star. This difference often makes her nervous that there is something inherently incompatible about her and Adam as a couple, or as a child to her parents in the context of the family dynamic. However, the people around her are always supportive of her passion for the cello, and in instances such as this one, she is reminded of how differences between people—or instruments—can give rise to incredibly beautiful and rich experiences, relationships, and musical jam sessions. 

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Denny Hall (Dad) Character Timeline in If I Stay

The timeline below shows where the character Denny Hall (Dad) appears in If I Stay. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
7:09 AM
Love, Family, and Relationships  Theme Icon
...that school is closed, Mia’s Mom, a travel agent, decides to stay home with Mia’s Dad, a middle school English teacher, and Mia’s eight-year-old brother, Teddy. (full context)
Sacrifice and Choice Theme Icon
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As the family eats breakfast together, Mia’s Dad points out a photo of Mia’s boyfriend, Adam, in the newspaper. Adam is a member... (full context)
Music and Harmony  Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Relationships  Theme Icon
...of classical music and Mia’s “marathon” practice sessions. Then a crash sounds—it’s Teddy playing on Dad’s old drum set, which makes Mia wonder if her mother and father, who used to... (full context)
Sacrifice and Choice Theme Icon
Music and Harmony  Theme Icon
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Mia’s Dad suggests that the family take a drive to visit Willow and Henry, married friends of... (full context)
8:17 AM
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The family piles into their old Buick, and Mia’s Dad begins to drive them to Willow and Henry’s house. Though Dad used to be notorious... (full context)
Sacrifice and Choice Theme Icon
Music and Harmony  Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Relationships  Theme Icon
...usual, the family debates as to what to put on the radio: Mom wants NPR, Dad wants Frank Sinatra, Teddy wants Spongebob SquarePants, and Mia wants to listen to classical music.... (full context)
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...and finds herself without a scrape. She looks around for her family, and finds her father, bloody and dead, on the pavement. She finds her mother dead as well, completely white... (full context)
9:23 AM
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...around age fourteen, Mia’s studies were taken over by Professor Christie, a friend of Mia’s Dad who was surprised by the level of Mia’s talent, given her age. (full context)
Music and Harmony  Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Relationships  Theme Icon
...age eight. Terrified of the thought of playing onstage, Mia runs away before her performance. Dad finds her and tells her that he, too, used to get terrible stage fright before... (full context)
12:19 PM
Music and Harmony  Theme Icon
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...time, and the CD is switched to jazz, a genre that reminds Mia of her Dad, who once declared jazz as “punk for old people.” (full context)
Love, Family, and Relationships  Theme Icon
Life and Death  Theme Icon
...unsuccessful. She follows a nurse out of the operating room, and discovers her grandparents (her father’s parents) in a waiting area. Her grandmother, Gran, is chatting away, a hallmark of her... (full context)
3:47 PM
Music and Harmony  Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Relationships  Theme Icon
...that it did. Adam was able to bond over punk music with Mia’s Mom and Dad, and he even plays basketball with her Dad as well. One night in Mia’s bedroom... (full context)
8:12 PM
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Love, Family, and Relationships  Theme Icon
...began to play the cello, she noticed how different it was from the band her Dad played in. While he was always playing with other people, she could only practice solo... (full context)
9:06 PM
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Mia recalls that when Willow began to date Henry, her Dad’s band-mate, Henry was a “total drunk playboy,” but that Willow whipped him into shape, and... (full context)
10:40 PM
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...that the family ended the funeral service with a rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Dad reasons that it was his family’s way of coping with their son’s death, and that... (full context)
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Mia muses that to some extent, her Dad was wrong—in Mia’s scenario, she does seem to be able to control whether she lives... (full context)
2:48 AM
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In a flashback, Mia recalls that prior to Teddy’s birth, Dad’s band was fairly popular in college towns across the Northwest, and, oddly, Japan. However, once... (full context)
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When Teddy is a few months old, Dad announces he is leaving the band, even though Mom says she’s okay with him continuing... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Gramps is upset at Dad’s transformation into a more parental figure for reasons Mia can’t figure out. Gramps finally explains... (full context)
4:57 AM
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Mia mulls over the lyrics her father wrote years ago, meditating in particular on the lyric “I’m not choosing. But I’m running... (full context)
5:42 AM
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...when she had an overpowering sense of déjà vu, such as when her Mom or Dad told her a story from their childhoods and she felt as if she had lived... (full context)
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...food on the grill, cold watermelon, and wild blackberry pies. Mia feels especially happy when Dad, Henry, and Adam jam on their guitars and sing. They invite her to join on... (full context)
7:16 AM
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Love, Family, and Relationships  Theme Icon
Life and Death  Theme Icon
...cope with the pain of moving forward in her life. She pictures Teddy, Mom and Dad, and her cello, and squeezes Adam’s hand. Adam’s grip on her hand tightens, and he... (full context)