I have not even thought about reading Go Set a Watchman. It’s not that I am suspicious about a “friend” discovering and publishing a rough draft of a favorite novel as something new. It is not that Atticus is a racist. It’s just that I haven’t had time.
You see I, too, recently came across a friend’s scribblings that would later be rewritten into what some have called the greatest story ever told. My friend is God.
Some of the changes are just funny. For instance, the early version, the “Old Old Testament” paints Satan as the tempter in the Garden of Eden, but instead of a serpent, Old Scratch is a cute kitten. Apparently, God was trying to make the point that you need to beware even things that appear innocent. But an editor really thought it distracted from the overall point of the story and made Satan a snake.
Sometimes, God seemed to lose himself in the details. In the “Old New Testament,” Jesus’ genealogy goes on for 43 pages.
The most shocking change, though, comes when Judas leads the soldiers to arrest Jesus. In the version we all know, Peter pulls out a sword and cuts off a guy’s ear before Jesus tells him to put away his sword.
Here’s the original draft: “Jesus shook himself as if he were waking from a dream. ‘Thanks, Pete! Come on, boys, let’s show these jerks who the King of the Jews is.’ The lord then began calling fire and brimstone down on his arresters.”
By the end of the chapter Caiphas’ and Herod’s houses are smoldering ruins; their owners dead, and Judas? Let’s just say he doesn’t get a chance to kill himself.
Thankfully, an editor reminded God that Jesus was about “turn the other cheek,” so the rewrite makes it clear that violence is not the way to go.
I feel confident, though, that this original draft is something that needs to be read. And if it makes me rich, awesome.