It's not specific to man pages, I don't think. I've read several walk-throughs that were intended to be consumed by beginners, and had lots of step by step instructions before turning into something like: "Then edit your network configuration files as necessary."
Part of it is the experience gap between the user reading the guide, and the programmer / enthusiast writing it. It's hard to know or remember what things are going to go over the heads of an inexperienced audience. Then there's the complexity of a modern Linux system, where you could be doing any of a hundred different things. Documenting them all, exhaustively, without reading like a Choose-Your-Adventure novel would be a considerable undertaking. There's also laziness, as the author runs out of motivation after writing five pages of elementary text.
This where distros like Ubuntu come into play.
If you've wrestled with Debian or (god forbid) any redhat distro, installing and running Ubuntu feels like you're back in ME land.
My first Linux system was a DX4-100, which is still running Potato and DR-DOS, configuring things like X was a bit of a trial, the network stuff was easy, right up until I tried using samba to get the 'doze machines into the fray.
Netatalk, for the older Mac's I have was pretty simple, but I never did get the bridge on the Mac side of things to work, which meant the Linux and 'doze machines couldn't print directly to the LaserWriter.
I'm really not sure why a "beginner" would run vi or emacs, right from the get go I always used MC's internal editor.
That being said my mate who got me into Linux threw me in the deep end straight away by getting me started on compiling a custom kernel.
With ANY Linux package compiling starts with
from there you get to see if all the tools are there and working, you follow it up with
for a kernel it's
make bzlilo modules modules_install
Things are a bit different with grub, but it's a similar process
Compiling quake(n) or mjpegtools or what ever is a similar process.
But it's not something a beginner is going to NEED to do, not unless you have a video capture card or get into SDR or something.
It is actually quite hard to really "break" a Linux system badly enough you will need to re-install.
As for man-pages being hard to read, I don't get it.
Most man pages and the newer doc system have groovy little examples right at the end.
Under a Debian based distro, either vanilla Debian or Ubuntu, go to your package management weapon of choice, install the Linux How To's, there is some great reading in there.
These days configuring X, CUPS and a network is a hell of a lot easier than it ever has been.