The Confessions, Books I-IV
Study Questions
Book I

1. How does Augustine deduce what he was like as a baby?

2. What is Augustine's evaluation of a baby's "innocence"? Why is this important?

3. Under what circumstances did Augustine want to be baptized as a Christian? Why did his mother defer his wish?

4. What leads Augustine to characterize himself as "so tiny a child, so great a sinner" (I.xii. 19)?

5. As Augustine looks back on his schooling (I.xiii), what does he find most beneficial? What in it does he criticize? Why?

6. What is the school competition in which Augustine won the highest praise (I.xvii)? What does it mean for the young Augustine to identify so successfully with Vergil's Juno?

7. What is the Parable of the Prodigal Son (cf. Luke 15:11-32)? How does Augustine use the image of the Prodigal Son (I.xviii)?

Book II

1. What is Augustine's idea of the two loves (II.ii), and where does this idea come from?

2. What was Augustine's life like in his sixteenth year?

3. The episode of the theft of the pears (chapters iv-x) is a very famous one. What exactly is its point?

4. Why does Augustine ask where the beauty was in his theft of the pears (

Book III

1. How does Augustine's experience at Carthage recall the experience and career of Aeneas? Why does the narrator-Augustine draw the parallel?

2. What happens when Augustine reads Cicero (III.iv)? the Bible (III.v)?

3. Who are the Manichees, and why did Augustine fall in with them (

4. Explain the analogy between justice and poetry (III.vii). What troublesome biblical facts is Augustine trying to deal with by means of this argument?

5. What was Monica's dream? What did it mean?

Book IV

1. Why was Augustine attracted to astrology?

2. What are Augustine's feelings about the death of his friend? Can you compare these with the Book of Job?

3. Why does Augustine call the love of his friend an "error" and "a vast myth and a long lie" (IV.vii, viii)?

4. When he was 26 or 27 years old, Augustine wrote his first book. What was it? What does the Augustine think of it some 17 or so years later when writing his Confessions?