Augustine was not, as some scholars have claimed, the work of a weak-willed or self-indulgent man. Rather, it was the work of a very determined and self-sacrificing individual who was looking back into his sinful past. When Augustine wrote the Confessions he had already been a devout follower of the Christian faith for several years. He had a complex motive for undertaking such self-analysis. His purpose in recounting of his own struggle to accept the Christian faith was to exalt God for saving him from the sinfulness of his youth. Through the Confessions, Augustine was also able to reaffirm to himself who he was, and to encourage other believers and disbelievers to follow him in their own personal search for God's true mercy.
In order to illustrate Augustine's unusual determination and strength of character, it is necessary to examine his life. St. Augustine was born in Northern Africa to Patricius, a pagan father, and Monica, a Christian mother. Both parents desired success for their son, so Augustine was sent to school in Carthage to learn to be a rhetorician. What may be counted as his first youthful weakness was his susceptibility to peer pressure. Augustine often felt the need to boast of imaginary sexual exploits and it was with these friends of his youth that he committed a theft of some pears (Book 2, Chapter 4). Augustine was particularly troubled by this incident "what pleased me was not what I stole, but that I stole; nor would I have got any pleasure out of it by myselfThat out of mere fun and play should proceed an eagerness to hurt and an appetite to do harm to others and with no sort of a desire either to avenge myself or to gain anything for myself!" Augustine spends much time talking about his theft of the pears, even going so far as to compare the act to fornication (Book 2, Chapters 6-10).
Literal fornication; however, was to be Augustine's most frequent sin. He was a 17 year old college student in Carthage (Book 3, Chapter 1) when he first committed this act.