Box with Recursive Data Structures

Recursive data types or data types with dynamic sizes need to use a Box:

enum List<T> {
    Cons(T, Box<List<T>>),

fn main() {
    let list: List<i32> = List::Cons(1, Box::new(List::Cons(2, Box::new(List::Nil))));
  • If Box was not used and we attempted to embed a List directly into the List, the compiler would not compute a fixed size of the struct in memory (List would be of infinite size).

  • Box solves this problem as it has the same size as a regular pointer and just points at the next element of the List in the heap.

  • Remove the Box in the List definition and show the compiler error. “Recursive with indirection” is a hint you might want to use a Box or reference of some kind, instead of storing a value directly.