Book 1, Chapters 1–5
Augustine opens with a statement of praise to God; to praise God is the natural desire of
all men. In calling upon God, Augustine shows faith, because he cannot call upon a God
he does not know. God fills all of creation; God is perfect, eternal, unchangeable, all-
powerful, and the source of all goodness. God is beyond Augustine’s ability to describe;
he asks God for the words to describe such greatness. Augustine pleads that he is too
small and weak for God to come to him, but only God can aid him.
Book 1, Chapters 6 and 7
Augustine discusses his infancy, which he knows only from the report of his parents.
According to that report, Augustine became more aware and tried unsuccessfully to
communicate his desires to the adults around him. Only God can say whether people
exist in some form before infancy; Augustine says that his own knowledge is limited to
what God reveals. God knows no past or future, only one eternal present. Even as an
infant, Augustine was not free from sin. Observing infants, he notes that they throw
tantrums if they do not get their way, although they are too weak to cause actual harm.
Augustine thanks God for the good gifts of his body, his life, and his senses, gifts that
reflect God’s perfect ordering of all things.
Book 1, Chapters 8–11
Augustine discusses his childhood. During that time, by observing how adults use words
and using the power of memory, Augustine grasped that a word indicated a certain thing.
In learning language, Augustine joined human society. Next, he was sent to school. When
he was lazy, he was beaten. He found punishment miserable, although adults only
laughed at his misery. Augustine loved to watch adult sports and shows, and he was
punished for this, as well.
As a boy, Augustine was introduced to Christianity. When he fell seriously ill, he pleaded
to be baptized. His mother would have arranged it, but Augustine got better, so his
baptism was postponed. Augustine laments that he was not baptized as a child, but his
mother thought it better to let him face the temptations of adolescence before baptism.
Book 1, Chapters 12–20
As a child, Augustine hated being forced to study, and those who forced him had only
empty wealth and glory in mind. Augustine reports that he loved reading Latin literature
but always hated Greek. He disliked learning the mechanics of Latin, but it was better
than reading vain stories, which directed Augustine’s emotions to wrong ends. According
to Augustine, traditional education teaches immoral fictions, encouraging readers to sin.
Augustine says it was not surprising that he wandered away from God when he was
expected to follow these empty examples. Like the Prodigal Son, he was blinded by
wickedness and could not find his way back to God. Augustine excelled in school and