Every story has a beginning and an end. The beginning of the object's story is its constructor, explicitly called when the object comes into existence. But the ending of its story is the destructor, a method implicitly called when an object leaves this life. Any per-object clean-up code is placed in the destructor, which must (in Perl) be called DESTROY.

If constructors can have arbitrary names, then why not destructors? Because while a constructor is explicitly called, a destructor is not. Destruction happens automatically via Perl's garbage collection (GC) system, which is a quick but somewhat lazy reference-based GC system. To know what to call, Perl insists that the destructor be named DESTROY.

Why is DESTROY in all caps? Perl on occasion uses purely upper-case function names as a convention to indicate that the function will be automatically called by Perl in some way. Others that are called implicitly include BEGIN, END, AUTOLOAD, plus all methods used by tied objects, described in the perltie manpage.

In really good object-oriented programming languages, the user doesn't care when the destructor is called. It just happens when it's supposed to. In low-level languages without any GC at all, there's no way to depend on this happening at the right time, so the programmer must explicitly call the destructor to clean up memory and state, crossing their fingers that it's the right time to do so. Unlike C++, an object destructor is nearly never needed in Perl, and even when it is, explicit invocation is uncalled for. In the case of our Person class, we don't need a destructor because Perl takes care of simple matters like memory deallocation.

The only situation where Perl's reference-based GC won't work is when there's a circularity in the data structure, such as:

    $this->{WHATEVER} = $this;

In that case, you must delete the self-reference manually if you expect your program not to leak memory. While admittedly error-prone, this is the best we can do right now. Nonetheless, rest assured that when your program is finished, its objects' destructors are all duly called. So you are guaranteed that an object eventually gets properly destroyed, except in the unique case of a program that never exits. (If you're running Perl embedded in another application, this full GC pass happens a bit more frequently--whenever a thread shuts down.)