Santiago dreams of the lions that played on the beaches of Africa, where he once visited after going on a sailing ship years ago.
When he was much younger and saw the lions cavorting and wrestling in the sand with each other on the African coast, Santiago found them very vital and full of youthful energy. In fact, he admired their exuberance and strength. Now, he does not dream of his deceased wife or anyone else; instead, he only dreams of the young cats that once played on the beaches because he has always admired their youth, energy, and strength.
He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach. They played like young cats in the dusk and he loved them as he loved the boy.
Just as he talks of the great players Joe DiMaggio and Dick Sisler and great managers John McGraw and Leo Durocher, Santiago finds a focus for his thoughts so that he, too, can persevere and endure. Now, after eighty-four days, the old man knows that he must prove his strength and abilities when he goes out. So, he sleeps and dreams of the young, vital lions before he goes out in search of fish as he bolsters his strength.
After his battle with the marlin, it is a discouraged and exhausted Santiago who returns with only the bones of the great fish. But, he has certainly fought hard, and brought the marlin next to his boat only to have it devoured by sharks. Nevertheless, in an act of renewal of his spirit, Santiago, who is exhausted, beaten, and battered, retains his ability to dream and his indomitable spirit. He lies down and dreams again of the lions, undefeated.