Confessions was written during a time of St. Augustine's life when he was in poor health as an examination of the self, a sort of turning inward. In it, he admits for himself his own wrongs and sins. It is addressed directly to God, and the title Confessions is used in the sense of witnessing or testifying to the grace of God.

In Book II, he writes about how as a youth he (Adam- and Eve- like) stole fruit from an orchard, not so much because he wanted or needed it but for the sake of doing something he knew he wasn't allowed to do. Augustine describes how although man's natural orientation is toward God, worshipping Him, he is also distracted by sensual, physical things, and so turns away from Him. This concern with the material makes man feel torn, unhappy, and ill-at-ease because it takes him away from the way he is supposed to be:

"Because of all this my soul was sick, and broke out in sores, whose itch I agonized to scratch with the rub of carnal things--carnal, yet if there were no soul in them, they would not be objects of love." --from Book III, Chapter I of Confessions.