If I Stay

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The Cello Symbol Icon

Mia is a talented cellist who plans to pursue a career in classical cello music. She fell in love with the instrument as a child, initially due to its “humanlike” shape, and has played it ever since. While her parents are punk rockers at heart, Mia has always felt an affinity to classical music. In the novel, the cello is a symbol of what makes Mia unique, and also what makes her feel different from her parents and from Adam, who plays guitar in a rock band. The cello is what may bring her to New York City to study at Juilliard, but it will also be what will take her away from Oregon, and thus from Adam, whose band is based there. Mia also learns, however, that her cello can also be used to create harmony in her life, rather than dissonance. This is especially apparent in a symbolic scene where Mia plays her cello alongside her Dad and Adam on their guitars, and together they create a unique and “pretty amazing” sound. The power of the cello as a symbol is also illustrated in the book’s final scene—when Adam puts the headphones on Mia, it is ultimately both the music of Yo-Yo Ma and cello music’s overall meaningfulness to Mia that gives her the strength to decide to stay.

The Cello Quotes in If I Stay

The If I Stay quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Cello. 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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9:23 AM Quotes

Sometimes I did feel like I came from a different tribe. I was not like my outgoing, ironic dad or my tough-chick mom. And as if to seal the deal, instead of learning to play electric guitar, I’d gone and chosen the cello.

Related Characters: Mia Hall (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Cello, Punk Rock and Classical Music
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

When she was eight years old, Mia fell in love with the cello: she was drawn to the human-like shape of the instrument, and felt passionate about the music she could make in tandem with its strings. At first, her parents were incredulous about such a small girl playing a rather large instrument, particularly one that was so different from the punk rock music that they loved and listened to. However, their love of Mia meant that they were willing to put aside musical preferences to support their daughter in her interests.Though Mia never doubted that her parents were proud of her, she always felt slightly out of place among the punk, outgoing personalities of her Mom and Dad. To her, her parents' punk-rock lifestyle and her classical pursuits seemed to mean that she was inherently "uncool," despite the family she was born into. Yet, this discomfort is not enough to dissuade her from pursuing the kind of music that she loves. Once again, this quote is an example of how Mia finds herself making choices and separating herself from others, but also compromising and finding harmony with her family and friends.

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. 

7:16 AM Quotes

Yo-Yo Ma continues to play, and it’s like the piano and cello are being poured into my body, the same way that the IV and blood transfusions are. And the memories of my life as it was, and the flashes of it as it might be, are coming so fast and furious. I feel like I can no longer keep up with them but they keep coming and everything is colliding, until I cannot take it anymore. Until I cannot be like this one second longer.

Related Characters: Mia Hall (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Cello, Punk Rock and Classical Music
Page Number: 232
Explanation and Analysis:

In a last-ditch effort to rouse Mia out of her coma, Adam puts headphones over Mia's ears. He presses "play" on an iPod, and the music of Yo-Yo Ma (whom they saw in concert for their first date) floods her ears. Despite all of the reminiscing and flashbacks that Mia has thought of during the last few hours since the accident, it is this music that triggers the most emotion. It is this overwhelming feeling of how much she loves music, and how much she loved making and feeling this music with the people around her, that brings Mia to the place where she knows without a doubt that she cannot leave. She knows that to honor the memories of her family, it is her duty to remain alive—this way, she can continue to make music and keep that love alive. Though Teddy, Mom, and Dad are gone, music, combined with the love of the friends and family members who remain alive, will transport her to a place of comfort, even in the face of grief. 

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The Cello Symbol Timeline in If I Stay

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Cello appears in If I Stay. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
7:09 AM
Sacrifice and Choice Theme Icon
Music and Harmony  Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Relationships  Theme Icon
...to, though she notes that she may have to rehearse with a pianist and her cello teacher, Professor Christie, instead. Mia is a talented cellist, and recently auditioned for a spot... (full context)
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...like more coffee, Mia mentions that she is considering going back to bed, since her cello is at school and she can’t practice. Mom is incredulous that Mia would go a... (full context)
8:17 AM
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...it’s over, when Mia turns it to the classical music station, which is playing Beethoven’s Cello Sonata no. 3. Happy and content to have the day off with her family, she... (full context)
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...calm herself down, she focuses on the music and plays what Adam calls her “air cello,” practicing the notes without her instrument. When the music dies away, she hears the sirens... (full context)
9:23 AM
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...novel, Mia remembers herself at age ten, when she first fell in love with the cello. Her parents laughed at the idea of such a tiny girl playing such a large... (full context)
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...parents supported her musical talents, and ensured that she was always able to study the cello privately with college students. When she surpassed the abilities of the college students at around... (full context)
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...Mia plays the recital without a hitch. Afterwards, her parents present her with a new cello of her own. (full context)
10:12 AM
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...several months of chatting she realized he was genuinely interested in her attentiveness to the cello. While Adam is effortlessly cool, Mia’s introversion means that she is well-liked, but not overly... (full context)
12:19 PM
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...one visit to Gran’s relatives in the East, Mia gives an impromptu concert with her cello, and someone brings up the idea that she is Juilliard-worthy. Gran speaks to Professor Christie... (full context)
3:47 PM
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...in Mia’s bedroom after dinner, Adam invites Mia to “play” him like she would a cello, and then he “plays” Mia like a guitar, resulting in their first sexual experience together. (full context)
4:39 PM
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...Because they are quiet, dark-haired, and serious about art (photography in Kim’s case, and the cello in Mia’s), students and teachers implicitly paired the two girls together. Most likely because of... (full context)
8:12 PM
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In a flashback, Mia remembers that when she began to play the cello, she noticed how different it was from the band her Dad played in. While he... (full context)
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...win the concerto competition, but privately, Mia knows she has very little experience playing the cello with other musicians. (full context)
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Love, Family, and Relationships  Theme Icon
...different experience than playing solo in her bedroom. She also begins to play duets (and cello “duels”) with Simon in the hours after dinner. They engage in friendly competition, and though... (full context)
10:40 PM
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...funerals. Mia chooses Mozart’s “Requiem.” Mia’s Mom says she would want Mia to play the cello at her and Mia’s Dad’s funeral, as if certain they would die together. (full context)
4:57 AM
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...to diffuse the tension by joking about Mia going to a local college to study cello, and about Adam’s band moving to New York. However, they both know that neither option... (full context)
5:42 AM
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...and Adam jam on their guitars and sing. They invite her to join on her cello. She protests at first, saying the musical styles of the instruments don’t go together, but... (full context)
7:16 AM
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...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 gasps—the first time... (full context)