13.7 Advanced Uses of Reflection

The preceding example demonstrates the use of reflection, but doesn't perform any tasks you can't accomplish using normal C# language constructs. However, reflection can also manipulate types in ways not supported directly in C#, as demonstrated in this section.

While the CLR enforces access controls on type members (specified using access modifiers such as private and protected), these restrictions don't apply to reflection. Assuming you have the correct set of permissions, you can use reflection to access and manipulate private data and function members, as this example using the Greeting subtypes from the previous section shows (see the source comment for filename and compilation information):

// InControl.cs - compile with /r:Greeting.dll,English.dll
using System;
using System.Reflection;
class TestReflection {
  // Note: This method requires the ReflectionPermission perm.
  static void ModifyPrivateData(object o, string msg) {
    // Get a FieldInfo type for the private data member
    Type t = o.GetType( ); 
    FieldInfo fi = t.GetField("msg", BindingFlags.NonPublic|
    // Use the FieldInfo to adjust the data member value
    fi.SetValue(o, msg);
  static void Main( ) {
    // Create instances of both types
    BritishGreeting bg = new BritishGreeting( );
    AmericanGreeting ag = new AmericanGreeting( );
    // Adjust the private data via reflection
    ModifyPrivateData(ag, "Things are not the way they seem");
    ModifyPrivateData(bg, "The runtime is in total control!");
    // Display the modified greeting strings
    ag.SayHello( ); // "Things are not the way they seem"
    bg.SayHello( ); // "The runtime is in total control!"

When run, this sample generates the following output:

Things are not the way they seem
The runtime is in total control!

This demonstrates that the private msg data members in both types are modified via reflection, although there are no public members defined on the types that allow that operation. Note that while this technique can bypass access controls, it still doesn't violate type safety.

Although this is a somewhat contrived example, the capability can be useful when building utilities such as class browsers and test suite automation tools that need to inspect and interact with a type at a deeper level than its public interface.

    Part II: Programming with the .NET Framework
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