Instances of class object not modifiable?

Steven Bethard steven.bethard at
Mon Jan 24 17:40:10 EST 2005

Krzysztof Stachlewski wrote:
> I tried to run the following piece of code:
> Python 2.3.4 (#53, May 25 2004, 21:17:02) [MSC v.1200 32 bit (Intel)] on
> win32
> Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>>>o = object()
>>>>o.a = 5
> Traceback (most recent call last):
>   File "<stdin>", line 1, in ?
> AttributeError: 'object' object has no attribute 'a'
> But if I do:
>>>>class c(object):
>>>>  pass
>>>>o = c()
>>>>o.a = 5
> ...then it, of course, works.
> So what's wrong with the first example?

It's an instance of class object. ;)

If my memory serves me right, instances of object have no __dict__.

py> o = object()
py> o.__dict__
Traceback (most recent call last):
   File "<interactive input>", line 1, in ?
AttributeError: 'object' object has no attribute '__dict__'

Yup, that looks right.  As I understand it, the reason for this is so 
that classes which *really* need to be memory efficient can define 
__slots__ instead and save some overhead.

If you're interested in having a builtin object that can be used as 
above, you should help me rally for my Bunch type PEP.  They haven't 
given me a PEP number for it yet, but a patch is available[1] and I've 
included the current draft of the PEP below.



Title: Generic Object Data Type
Version: $Revision: 1.0 $
Last-Modified: $Date: 2004/11/29 16:00:00 $
Author: Steven Bethard <steven.bethard at>
Status: Draft
Type: Standards Track
Content-Type: text/x-rst
Created: 29-Nov-2004
Python-Version: 2.5
Post-History: 29-Nov-2004


This PEP proposes a standard library addition to support the simple
creation of 'generic' objects which can be given named attributes
without the need to declare a class. Such attribute-value mappings are
intended to complement the name-value mappings provided by Python's
builtin dict objects.


Python's dict objects provide a simple way of creating anonymous
name-value mappings. These mappings use the __getitem__ protocol to
access the value associated with a name, so that code generally appears


Occasionally, a programmer may decide that dotted-attribute style access
is more appropriate to the domain than __getitem__ style access, and
that their mapping should be accessed like::

Currently, if a Python programmer makes this design decision, they are
forced to declare a new class, and then build instances of this class.
When no methods are to be associated with the attribute-value mappings,
declaring a new class can be overkill.  This PEP proposes adding a
simple type to the collections module of the standard library that can
be used to build such attribute-value mappings.

Providing such a type allows the Python programmer to determine which
type of mapping is most appropriate to their domain and apply this
choice with minimal effort.  Some of the suggested uses include:

Returning Named Results

It is often appropriate for a function that returns multiple items to
give names to the different items returned.  The type suggested in this
PEP provides a simple means of doing this that allows the returned
values to be accessed in the usual attribute-style access::

     >>> def f(x):
     ...     return Bunch(double=2*x, squared=x**2)
     >>> y = f(10)
     >>> y.double
     >>> y.squared

Representing Hierarchical Data

The type suggested in this PEP also allows a simple means of
representing hierarchical data that allows attribute-style access::

     >>> x = Bunch(spam=Bunch(rabbit=1, badger=[2, 3, 4]), ham='neewom')
     >>> x.spam.badger
     [2, 3, 4]
     >>> x.ham


As Bunch objects are intended primarily to replace simple, data-only
classes, simple Bunch construction was a primary concern.  As such,
the Bunch constructor supports creation from keyword arguments, dicts,
and sequences of (attribute, value) pairs::

     >>> Bunch(eggs=1, spam=2, ham=3)
     Bunch(eggs=1, ham=3, spam=2)
     >>> Bunch({'eggs':1, 'spam':2, 'ham':3})
     Bunch(eggs=1, ham=3, spam=2)
     >>> Bunch([('eggs',1), ('spam',2), ('ham',3)])
     Bunch(eggs=1, ham=3, spam=2)

To allow attribute-value mappings to be easily combined, the update
method of Bunch objects supports similar arguments.

If Bunch objects are used to represent hierarchical data, comparison of
such objects becomes a concern.  For this reason, Bunch objects support
object equality::

     >>> x = Bunch(parrot=Bunch(lumberjack=True, spam=42), peng='shrub')
     >>> y = Bunch(peng='shrub', parrot=Bunch(spam=42, lumberjack=True))
     >>> z = Bunch(parrot=Bunch(lumberjack=True), peng='shrub')
     >>> x == y
     >>> x == z

Note that support for the various mapping methods, e.g.
__(get|set|del)item__, __len__, __iter__, __contains__, items, keys,
values, etc. was intentionally omitted as these methods did not seem to
be necessary for the core uses of an attribute-value mapping.  If such
methods are truly necessary for a given use case, this may suggest that
a dict object is a more appropriate type for that use.


Converting an XML DOM tree into a tree of nested Bunch objects::

     >>> import xml.dom.minidom
     >>> def getbunch(element):
     ...     result = Bunch()
     ...     if element.attributes:
     ...         result.update(element.attributes.items())
     ...     children = {}
     ...     for child in element.childNodes:
     ...         if child.nodeType == xml.dom.minidom.Node.TEXT_NODE:
     ...             children.setdefault('text', []).append(
     ...                 child.nodeValue)
     ...         else:
     ...             children.setdefault(child.nodeName, []).append(
     ...                 getbunch(child))
     ...     result.update(children)
     ...     return result
     >>> doc = xml.dom.minidom.parseString("""\
     ... <xml>
     ...   <a attr_a="1">
     ...     a text 1
     ...     <b attr_b="2" />
     ...     <b attr_b="3"> b text </b>
     ...     a text 2
     ...   </a>
     ...   <c attr_c="4"> c text </c>
     ... </xml>""")
     >>> b = getbunch(doc.documentElement)
     >>> b.a[0].b[1]
     Bunch(attr_b=u'3', text=[u' b text '])

Reference Implementation

The code is available as SourceForge patch 1094542 [1]_.

Open Issues
What should the type be named?  Some suggestions include 'Bunch',
'Record' and 'Struct'.

Where should the type be placed?  The current suggestion is the
collections module.


.. [1]

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