Saving a Dictionary of Pointers to File

I'm trying to create a family tree in python, and I want to create a dictionary of Persons, where the key is the person's first name and the value is a Person object for that name.

I can create the dictionary fine, and I can save it fine using the below code.

import os, ast

myFile = open( FILE, "r+" )     # Opens the file for reading and writing

tree =

if tree == "":
    tree = {}
    tree = ast.literal_eval(tree)

def save():

However, when I reload my program and try to read in the dictionary, I get the following error:

File "<unknown>", line 1
    {'Charlie': <__main__.Person object at 0x00000000032DB860>}
SyntaxError: invalid syntax

I suspect that the evaluator can't recognize the object because once the program closes the pointer no longer exists. Is there a way I can save my dictionary so that I can reload it and have access to all my Person objects' data without losing it each time my program closes?


ast.literal_eval is not meant for evaluating and understanding custom objects. It's used to evaluate strings and literals safely. You need to serialize your data by using something like pickle.

>>> import pickle
>>> class Person(object):
...     def __init__(self, name):
... = name  
>>> persons = {'Charlie': Person('Charlie')}
>>> with open(FILE, "wb") as my_file:
...     pickle.dump(persons, my_file)
>>> with open(FILE, "rb") as f:
...     result = pickle.load(f)
>>> result
{'Charlie': <__main__.Person object at 0x1598bd0>}

When you have large (or many) objects, you can use cPickle in which the pickling is done in C instead of python thus providing a major speed increase.

If object serialization is something you have not heard about before, please read this.

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