"no Old Testament, no civilization as we know it"

Michelangelo's Moses
GNU Free Documentation LicenseMichelangelo's Moses

Continuing with the Moses-in-the-bulrushes simile, the narrator observes that so much subsequent history -- pretty much all of western civilization -- depended on Pharaoh’s daughter happening to find the baby in the bulrushes.

This extends the simile between the encounter between Pharaoh’s daughter and Moses, and the chance encounter of Tomas and Tereza, later to be discussed more elaborately as the result of “the six chance happenings” (section 17, Part One; page 35) or “six improbable fortuities” (section 9, Part Two; page 48) which gnaw at Tomas. All the rest of this novel rests on those chance happenings, with the implication that the great love between Tomas and Tereza (and just about anything else in life) could so easily not have occurred.