'She had wandered, without rule or guidance, in a moral wilderness. . . . The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers,--stern and wild ones,--and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.' In the strict theocracy of the newly-formed Massachusetts Bay Colony, even private sins are punished. For the sin of adultery, the magistrates of the colony sentence Hester Prynne, her fatherless child in her arms, to wear a red letter A on her breast for the rest of her life.