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Class and object in Java

Last Updated on July 6, 2023 by Mayank Dham

Object-oriented programming (OOP) is a popular paradigm used in software development, and Java is a language that fully embraces this approach. At the core of OOP in Java lies the concepts of objects and classes. Understanding these fundamental concepts is crucial for any Java developer. In this article, we will delve into the world of objects and classes in Java, exploring their definitions, relationships, and practical implementation.

What is a Class in Java?

In Java, a class serves as a blueprint or template that defines the structure, behavior, and attributes of objects. It acts as a logical entity encapsulating data and methods. A class can be considered as a user-defined data type, enabling the creation of multiple objects of that type. For instance, a class named "Car" could have properties like color, brand, and horsepower, as well as methods like startEngine() and accelerate().

What is an Object in Java?

An object is an instance of a class. It represents a specific entity that possesses the characteristics defined within its class. When a class is instantiated, an object is created, occupying memory space. Each object has its own state (values of instance variables) and behavior (methods defined in the class). Using the earlier example, an object could be an instance of the "Car" class, representing a particular car with specific color, brand, and horsepower values.

A typical Java program generates a large number of objects, which, as you may know, interact by invoking methods. An object consists of:

  • State: It is represented by attributes of an object. It also reflects the properties of an object.
  • Behavior: It is represented by the methods of an object. It also reflects the response of an object to other objects.
  • Identity: It gives a unique name to an object and enables it to interact with other objects.

Class Declaration and Object Instantiation

To define a class in Java, you use the class keyword followed by the class name. Inside the class, you declare instance variables, constructors, and methods. For example:

Class Declaration and Object Instantiation

public class Car {
    // Instance variables
    private String color;
    private String brand;
    private int horsepower;
    // Constructor
    public Car(String color, String brand, int horsepower) {
        this.color = color;
        this.brand = brand;
        this.horsepower = horsepower;
    // Methods
    public void startEngine() {
        System.out.println("Engine started!");
    public void accelerate() {
        System.out.println("Car accelerating!");

To create an object of the Car class, you use the new keyword followed by the class name and parentheses. For example:

Car myCar = new Car("Red", "Toyota", 200);

Here, myCar is an object of the Car class, instantiated with the provided values. You can now access the object’s properties and invoke its methods.

Characteristics of an Object in Java

Objects in Java possess several characteristics that define their behavior and interactions within the object-oriented paradigm. The key characteristics of objects in Java are as follows:

1. State: Objects have state, which represents the data or attributes associated with the object. The state is defined by the values stored in the object’s instance variables. For example, a "Car" object may have a state defined by its color, brand, and horsepower.

2. Behavior: Objects exhibit behavior through the methods defined within their class. These methods represent the actions or operations that an object can perform. For instance, a "Car" object may have behaviors such as starting the engine or accelerating.

3. Identity: Each object in Java has a unique identity that distinguishes it from other objects. The identity of an object is provided by its memory address, which allows for individual object manipulation and reference.

4. Encapsulation: Encapsulation refers to the practice of bundling data (state) and methods (behavior) within a single unit, i.e., the object. It ensures that the object’s internal details are hidden and can only be accessed through well-defined interfaces (methods). Encapsulation promotes data security, abstraction, and modularity.

5. Abstraction: Abstraction allows objects to represent real-world entities or concepts by selectively exposing relevant information and hiding unnecessary details. It focuses on defining the essential characteristics and behaviors of an object while omitting the implementation specifics.

6. Inheritance: Inheritance enables objects to inherit properties and behaviors from other classes. Through inheritance, objects can form hierarchical relationships, with parent classes passing down their characteristics to child classes. This promotes code reuse, modularity, and the "is-a" relationship.

7. Polymorphism: Polymorphism allows objects to exhibit multiple forms or behaviors. It allows different objects to respond differently to the same method call based on their specific implementations. Polymorphism promotes code flexibility, extensibility, and the ability to process objects of different types through a common interface.

8. Association: Objects can have associations or relationships with other objects. These associations can be one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many, representing various interactions and dependencies between objects. Associations enable objects to collaborate and interact with each other to achieve desired functionality.

9. Lifecycle: Objects have a lifecycle, which includes creation, manipulation, and destruction. Objects are created using constructors, modified through method calls, and eventually destroyed through garbage collection when they are no longer referenced.

By understanding and leveraging these characteristics, developers can design and implement well-structured, modular, and flexible software systems using the object-oriented approach in Java.

The Java Object Class

In Java, every class implicitly or explicitly inherits from the Object class, which is the root of the class hierarchy. The Object class provides essential methods like equals(), toString(), and hashCode() that can be overridden in subclasses as per their specific requirements. By default, all Java objects have these methods available.

Objects and classes form the foundation of object-oriented programming in Java. Understanding these concepts is vital for effective software development in Java. A class defines the structure and behavior of objects, while objects represent specific instances of a class. By utilizing encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism, developers can create modular, reusable, and extensible code. With a solid grasp of objects and classes, you are equipped to leverage the power of object-oriented programming in your Java projects.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Can an object be created without a class in Java?
No, in Java, every object must be created from a class. A class serves as a blueprint for objects and defines their structure, behavior, and attributes. Objects are instances of classes, and without a class, there is no definition of the object’s properties and methods.

Q2. Can two objects of the same class have different values for their instance variables?
A2: Yes, each object of a class has its own copy of instance variables, allowing them to have different values. The state of an object is determined by the values assigned to its instance variables. Even if two objects are of the same class, they can have distinct values for their instance variables.

Q3. Can objects of different classes share the same method name?
A3: Yes, objects of different classes can have methods with the same name. This is known as method overloading or polymorphism. The behavior of the method can differ based on the class it belongs to, allowing objects to exhibit different functionality while sharing a common method name.

Q4. Can an object modify the value of another object’s instance variable directly?
A4: No, objects cannot directly modify the instance variables of other objects. Each object has its own set of instance variables, and access to them is typically controlled through methods. To modify the instance variables of another object, appropriate setter methods should be provided by the class.

Q5. Can objects exist without being assigned to variables in Java?
A5: Yes, objects can exist without being assigned to variables in Java. These objects are often created for immediate use or as arguments to method calls. Such objects are known as "anonymous objects" and do not have a reference variable associated with them. They are eligible for garbage collection once they are no longer in use.

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