LITERATURE: Confessions – Motivation for Style

The text of Confessions is written as if Augustine is writing to God, certainly addressing Him in an informal manner, meaning not in letter style, but more perhaps as a diary.  Augustine plunges into his own past and his own soul in offering his sins, as well as explanation and seeking forgiveness for them.  But he also shows an understanding of human nature in all this, which is likely the motivation for the writing.

If this were intended as a real "confession" to God, Augustine knows how to do it according to church rules.  He can also just go direct to God by thinking.  In other words, this didn’t have to be written down for his own purposes, or for God’s (who likely didn’t read it).  Even if Augustine felt a need to write it down, and this I well understand, it would never have been published.  Rather, it might have been placed on an altar and burned or the like.  Obviously then, this was written with the intent of having readers.

The style concept then, was a conscious decision to make it appear to be a first person pov confession to the second person ‘you’ of God.  Remember, Augustine was a literary scholar and teacher.  This does shed light on the thinking of Augustine and the way this was beautifully planned out as a personal affirmation of faith, but in its revelations and discoveries, very relative to all men.  Augustine, I think, being not only writer here, but a man of faith who has found a way to inspire others by sharing experience. 

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2 Responses to LITERATURE: Confessions – Motivation for Style

  1. Lisa Kenney says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about POV lately and Confessions has to be one of the best of the very few 2nd person writings, doesn’t it?

  2. susan says:

    Well, Confessions would be considered first person pov, even as it addresses the second, as in “I should have lifted myself up to you, Lord, to find a cure.” (IV.12)

    Augustine also at times speaks of God in the third person, so surely this is a feat of writing skill.

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