After having shot a man in a Santa Fe bar, the famous artist Jim Stegner served his time and has since struggled to manage the dark impulses that sometimes overtake him. Now he lives a quiet life. . . until the day that he comes across a hunting guide beating a small horse, and a brutal act of new violence rips his quiet life right open. Pursued by men dead set on retribution, Jim is left with no choice but to return to New Mexico and the high-profile life he left behind, where he’ll reckon with past deeds and the dark shadows in his own heart.
Now, assume one also desires the ability to add borders to windows. Again, the original Window class has no support. The ScrollingWindow subclass now poses a problem, because it has effectively created a new kind of window. If one wishes to add border support to many but not all windows, one must create subclasses WindowWithBorder and ScrollingWindowWithBorder etc. This problem gets worse with every new feature or window subtype to be added. For the decorator solution, we simply create a new BorderedWindowDecorator—at runtime, we can decorate existing windows with the ScrollingWindowDecorator or the BorderedWindowDecorator or both, as we see fit. Notice that if the functionality needs to be added to all Windows, you could modify the base class and that will do. On the other hand, sometimes (e.g., using external frameworks) it is not possible, legal, or convenient to modify the base class.
As an example, consider a window in a windowing system. To allow scrolling of the window's contents, one may wish to add horizontal or vertical scrollbars to it, as appropriate. Assume windows are represented by instances of the Window interface, and assume this class has no functionality for adding scrollbars. One could create a subclass ScrollingWindow that provides them, or create a ScrollingWindowDecorator that adds this functionality to existing Window objects. At this point, either solution would be fine.
The container must inject a delegate object to the delegate injection point. The delegate object implements the delegate type and delegates method invocations to remaining uninvoked decorators and eventually to the bean. When the container calls a decorator during business method interception, the decorator may invoke any method of the delegate object.
This difference becomes most important when there are several independent ways of extending functionality. In some object-oriented programming languages, classes cannot be created at runtime, and it is typically not possible to predict, at design time, what combinations of extensions will be needed. This would mean that a new class would have to be made for every possible combination. By contrast, decorators are objects, created at runtime, and can be combined on a per-use basis. The I/O Streams implementations of both Java and the .NET Framework incorporate the decorator pattern.