Much of the information about Augustine comes directly from Augustine’s own writing. Augustine’s Confessions provide significant insight into the first thirty-three years of his life. Augustine does not paint himself as a holy man, but as a sinner. The sins that Augustine confesses are of a many different severity and of many different natures, such as lust/adultery, stealing, and lies. For example, in the second chapter of Book IX Augustine references his choice to wait three weeks until the autumn break to leave his position of teaching without causing a disruption. He wrote that some "may say it was sinful of me to allow myself to occupy a chair of lies even for one hour."  In the introduction to the 1961 translation by R.S. Pine-Coffin he suggests that this harsh interpretation of Augustine’s own past is intentional so that his audience sees him as a sinner blessed with God’s mercy instead of as a holy figurehead.
Due to the nature of Confessions, it is clear that Augustine was not only writing for himself but that the work was intended for public consumption. Augustine’s potential audience included baptized Christians, catechumens, and those of other faiths. Peter Brown, in his book The Body and Society, writes that Confessions targeted "those with similar experience to Augustine’s own." Furthermore, with his background in Manichean practices, Augustine had a unique connection to those of the Manichean faith. Confessions thus constitutes an appeal to encourage conversion.