Great books 202 Wallin study questions for st. Augustine’s confessions book I



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GREAT BOOKS 202 - Wallin
STUDY QUESTIONS FOR ST. AUGUSTINE’S CONFESSIONS
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

8. What is Augustine’s idea of the two loves (II.ii), and where does this idea come

from?

9. What was Augustine’s life like in his sixteenth year?



10. The episode of the theft of the pears (chapters iv-x) is a very famous one. What

exactiy is its point?

11. Why does Augustine ask where the beauty was in his theft of the pears (II.vi)?
BOOKIII

12. How does Augustine’s experience at Carthage recall the experience and career of

Aeneas? Why does the narrator-Augustine draw the parallel?

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

14. Who are the Manichees, and why did Augustine fall in with them (III.vi)?

15. Explain the analogy between justice and poetry (III.vii). What troublesome biblical

facts is Augustine trying to deal with by means of this argument?

16. What was Monica’s dream? What did it mean?


BOOKIV

17. Why was Augustine attracted to astrology?

1 8. What are Augustine’s feelings about the death of his friend? Can you compare

these with the Book of Job?

19. Why does Augustine call the love of his friend an “error” and “a vast myth and a

long lie” (IV.vii, viii)?

20 When he was 26 or 27 years old, Augustine wrote his first book. What was it?

What does the narrator-Augustine think of it some 17 or so years later when writing his



Confessions?
BOOK V

2 1. Who is Faustus, and what is Augustine’s estimate of him?

22. Why did Augustine depart Carthage for Rome’? Relate this episode in his life to

Vergil’s Aeneid.

23. From chapter x what can you deduce about the Manichean doctrine of human

nature?


24. What is important about the figurative interpretation of Scripture passages (V.xiv)’?


BOOK VI

25. What is the point of the anecdote of the laughing beggar (VI.vi)? Can you relate this to the choice of lives in the Myth of Er in Book X of Plato’s Republic?

26. What analogy can you make between Alypius’ futile attempt to resist the temptation of the gladiatorial games (VI.vii-viii) and St. Augustine’s life? What does this tell us about Augustine’s view of temptation and the will?

27. You may want to compare the story of the exoneration of Alypius (VI.ix) with the History of Susanna in the Apocrypha. What do both of them say about the order of justice in the world?

28. Do you find chapter xv of Book VI troubling? If so, what exactly troubles you about it? What seems to trouble St. Augustine about it? Can you draw some parallels with Aeneas?
BOOK VII

29. Where did Augustine get the idea (VII.i) that what remains constant is better than

that which is changeable?

30. Where did Augustine get the idea that matter might be the source of evil? Does he

accept this idea?

31. What is the• argument about Jesus Christ in VII.xix?

32. What does Augustine learn from his re-discovery of the Letters of St. Paul

(VII. xxi)?


BOOK VIII

33. Although increasingly common, conversion is something of a new phenomenon in

the Greco-Roman world. List the examples of conversion in this book. Can you extract a

theory of conversion?

34. In VIII.v, St. Augustine analyzes his interior struggle as the warfare of his

conflicting wills. What is your view of the psychological authenticity of this passage?

35. Who is St. Anthony of Egypt? What is his story, and why is it so affecting? What

is Augustine’s response to it?

36. What happens in the garden in Milan?

37. Why does the issue of chastity and continence loom so large in Augustine’s

conversion to Christianity?
BOOKIX

38. Who are Verecundus, Nebridius, Alypius, and Adeodatus, and what do they mean

to Augustine?

39. Assess his mother’s role in St. Augustine’s life. Of what significance for him is



her death?

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