Where is King Lear's wife? What happened to Lady Macbeth's children? Where is Giselle's father?
Sometimes the characters left out of a drama play as important a part as those on stage.
The missing parent is a particularly common trope in fairy stories and romances. Think of Jack and the Beanstalk, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and many others.
Life in the 19th century was precarious for everyone, with a tiny handful of exceptions. Even more so for a single mother and her only daughter.
The absence of Giselle's father's greatly heightens the relationship between mother and daughter and increases the jeopardy for both of them in the plot.
Being on their own, Giselle's choices around marriage will likely have a huge impact on her mother.
Equally, Giselle's mother may be unable to support her daughter and prevent her from coming to harm.
It's a rough old world out there, as everyone watching would have clearly understood.
The absence of Giselle's father also links her very directly to the archetypal model of the young ballet dancer that Gautier portrays in his essay 'The Rat'.